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OPINION: Colleges recklessly walked away from bargaining says local union president

Sadly, we believed that a deal was at hand on Monday and the colleges recklessly walked away
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canadore college faculty strike cd 2017
Canadore faculty march down Main St. Photo by Chris Dawson

By John Patterson, President, Local 657

Canadore College Faculty Union

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As we come to the end of the fourth week of the college faculty strike, and we look forward to another week on the picket line, I feel compelled to address a number of mistruths that have been published by George Burton, the President of Canadore College, in the past week.

First and foremost is the assertion by the colleges that they are at the table and willing to negotiate.  They are NOT at the table and they are not willing to negotiate.   In fact, at the time that they introduced the vote, they stated that they had exhausted all avenues to a reach a negotiated settlement.  Does that sound like a party willing to negotiate? In spite of that, the union offered a new settlement to the colleges on Monday as a last-ditch effort to end the strike and the colleges refused to address it. The union is willing and able to negotiate at any time.  Why would we want to wait two weeks to have a vote and keep our students out of the classroom? Sadly, we believed that a deal was at hand on Monday and the colleges recklessly walked away.

The colleges assert that they are concerned about students.  If they are concerned about students why would they walk away from the table Monday and ask for a forced offer vote?  They did this knowing that the vote would take at least two weeks to complete and that this would result in the students and faculty being out of the classroom for another two weeks.  If they actually cared about the welfare of the students, do you not think they would continue to bargain until the job is done?  What is worse, they are threatening that if faculty rejects management’s offer, the strike will be prolonged for several more weeks.  Does this really sound like a concern for student welfare? Does this sound like a willingness to bargain?

The colleges assert that they have a plan for students so that they will not lose their semester or their year.  However, the college's plan treats all programs as though they are the same.  We continue to say, that depending on the program and the external requirements and regulations to which that program must adhere, there are students in jeopardy now.  It should be noted that neither faculty nor students were consulted on their “plan”.

The colleges assert that this deal is the same deal that was negotiated at the table.  This is not true.  The offer before us for a vote is a new offer with new concessions.  These concessions will interfere with the union’s ability to convert full-time jobs, to address our concerns over the welfare of our precarious work-force, to have input in academic decision-making or to direct our own professional development. These are all of our key issues.  If we accept this offer we will end up with an even smaller ratio of full-time faculty over the course of the contract and a continued abuse of precarious workers.

Of all these assertions, Mr. Burton has affixed his name as though he has written the letters himself.  I doubt this as the same letters appear across all colleges – that is unless Mr. Burton is the author of all.  I doubt it.  The public should know that the colleges have hired a slick PR firm to fabricate their story.  Thousands and thousands of taxpayers’ dollars are being spent to sway your opinion against the faculty.

As a member of the Canadore College Faculty Union Executive, I have been to countless meetings over the years to defend both our contract and full-time faculty.  I have repeated many times to our senior administration “How do you want to be viewed as an employer.  If you continue to treat people this way sooner or later the public will know.”  Well now you are exposed and you have only yourselves to blame.

In closing, I want to say that what the union has asked for is simple and reasonable. We want fair treatment for our contract faculty that includes a fair wage for all of the work that they do – Equal Pay for Equal Work.  We want contract faculty to have the opportunity to move into a full-time job as those jobs become available. We want a reasonable ratio of full-time to contract faculty in the college – 50/50. We want a guaranteed voice in academic decisions for both faculty and students – Collegial Governance. Finally, we want faculty to have the say in how they teach their classes – Academic freedom.

I think that any reasonable person can see that these demands will lead to a quality college system and a quality education for our students.

If you want to learn more about the faculty position go to collegefaculty.org

Sincerely,

John Patterson

President, Local 657

Canadore College Faculty Union



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