Ontario’s colleges have reached a tentative agreement with 10,000 faculty members that includes a two-year pay freeze.
The faculty members had been prepared to take a strike vote on September 6th, Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren “Smokey” Thomas said.
The two-year deal will freeze faculty salaries and leave benefits untouched, essentially maintaining the status quo until it is time to bargain again. Eligible faculty would still be able to move through the pay grid, a press release issued by the College Employer Council, the bargaining agent for Ontario’s 24 colleges, says.
“We’re quite pleased that we were able to get a two-year deal with faculty salaries frozen. It basically creates that pause that the government’s been looking for,” College Employer Council CEO Don Sinclair said.
Both sides have been paying close attention to the tensions between elementary and secondary school teachers and Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government. About 5,000 teachers rallied at Toronto’s Queen’s Park, angry at McGuinty for imposing a two-year wage freeze, as the province tries to battle a $14.8 billion budget deficit.
Colleges and faculty members wanted to work out an agreement on their own so the premier wouldn’t be in a position to intervene politically “and make matters worse,” Thomas said.
The agreement still needs to be ratified by employees, which Sinclair said will happen either September 10th or 17th in a vote the Ministry of Labour will oversee. The old agreement is scheduled to expire at the end of this month. Thomas said it will roll over until the new deal is approved. The new agreement includes some improved job security for part-time employees, the union leader added.
Sinclair said the two sides started negotiating in early June and were far apart until recently.
“Heading into the last week of bargaining, we thought there was a real possibility there may be a threat of a strike,” Sinclair said.
Students are relieved they can look forward to the start of the school year without worrying about disruption, said Tyler Epp of the College Student Alliance. Returning college students have already been through a strike. About 8,000 support workers went on strike during the last school year.
“(The support workers’ strike) created a little bit more tension for students who were attending school last year,” Epp said, adding students had to wait longer for services such as financial aid.