More than 400 OPSEU members met in London today to discuss their next move in the ongoing college faculty strike, filling Wolf Performance Hall to capacity and spilling into the exits.
The striking college faculty are scheduled to vote next week on a final contract offer from the College Employers' Council (CEC).
Voting will take place between Nov. 14 and 16, and a vote of 50 per cent plus one is required to accept CEC's offer.
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"I think there's a feeling that we do have to stand up and say no to this contract," said Whitney Hoth, who teaches English and writing at Fanshawe College.
"[Fanshawe College] initially voted against the strike, but I think they will support the no vote because they see that it's not good for students, it's not good for education in this system to go on with this precarious employment."
Loud cheers erupted from the audience when one attendee shouted: "There is absolutely no way I can support this agreement."
Darryl Bedford, president of OPSEU Local 110, agreed that members are likely to vote 'no' on the proposed offer, which he said contains "forced concessions" around staffing and workload.
"When you really peel back the layers of the onion and look at what the language would actually do, people here understood that they need to vote no on this offer," he said.
Going back to work?
Bedford said he isn't yet worried about the possibility of back-to-work legislation because the legislature isn't currently in session.
He said OPSEU members are more than ready to get back to work, and are hoping to hammer out an agreement as soon as possible.
"If we bargain now, we could have our members back in the colleges before this vote even happens," he said.
Whitney Hoth thinks that being legislated back to work is possible, but not necessarily unwelcome.
"The best solution is a negotiated settlement. Next to that would be the government giving us an arbitrator. So either of those outcomes I think would be better than submitting to a forced vote that in its substance is just not acceptable now."
In the event that OPSEU members do vote yes on the proposed offer, Bedford said the outcome would do lasting damage to the union's collective agreement and their ability to enforce it.
"Fortunately the contract faculty who are here, they understand that if it's a yes vote it would make it even harder for them to get full-time positions in the future."
About 12,000 college professors, counsellors and librarians at have been on strike since Oct. 16. in a dispute that centers around job security and academic freedom.
The strike affects more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges across Ontario.
Students at Fanshawe College have had their semester pushed back by two days to Dec. 22.
A statement on the college's website says that no Ontario college student has ever lost a semester because of a strike.
Earlier this week, Fanshawe College president Peter Devlin said he could not comment on the point at which they would have to scrap the semester.