Why Call a Strike Vote? Why August 28?

Your provincial union negotiating team has requested a strike vote for August 28.  Why did they do this?

Most fundamentally, a strong strike vote DOES NOT mean a strike.  Rather, it is a way to empower our bargaining team.  Without an impending strike vote, in all likelihood management negotiators will NOT negotiate seriously over the summer months.

In the last round of negotiations, an agreement was reached just before the strike vote was set to be held.  In other words, the looming strike vote led to serious negotiations.  Your bargaining team is hoping the same thing will happen in this round:  a clear request to hold a strike vote will lead to serious and meaningful negotiations over the summer months.  Past experience makes it quite clear that management negotiators won’t bargain seriously until the Union has shown a willingness to strike.

Why the date of August 28?  In fact, there’s a very structured labour negotiations process that must be respected.  The Ontario Ministry of Labour has many rules relating to strike votes.  They can’t be held too long before the end of a collective agreement (in our case, August 31, 2014).  Also, a strike vote after August 31 is subject to certain rules.  For instance, after August 31, the College Employer Council negotiating team could present an “imposed” contract or lock out the membership.

So, our negotiating team had possible voting dates of June or late August.  Late August was deemed to be the better choice because most faculty will be returning from their summer holidays and focused on the year ahead.

What issues are worth fighting for?  Most fundamentally, job security.  Durham College is located in an extremely high-growth area, so lay-offs here have not been a major concern, but in other Ontario colleges, lay-offs are a frequent occurrence.  Also, some Ontario colleges are opening private colleges that utilize the materials developed by our faculty.  This is a clear threat to our jobs.  Secondly, after two years without a pay increase (in effect a pay decrease because of inflation), salary will be an issue.  Third, greater security for contract teachers, and especially Partial Load, is an essential area of focus.  Also, on-line teaching is proliferating, including colleges’ claimed ownership of teaching materials created by our members.

Another core issue for our negotiating team is quality education:  this includes some say over such concerns as proliferation of on-line courses, control over assessment and grading, and related issues.  As academic and industry professionals, we need to demand some control in these matters.

One more point:  your bargaining team feels that it is a fundamental right of all members to be involved in the collective bargaining process;  this includes Partial Load faculty.  We have requested to the Ontario Labour Board that all Partial Load faculty since January, 2014, be entitled to cast a ballot on August 28.