Ontario's ongoing college strike is likely to be "fairly protracted," says the head of a bargaining team that represents the employer.
Don Sinclair, chief executive officer of the College Employer Council, says he doesn't see the strike by faculty at 24 public colleges across the province ending anytime soon. No new talks are scheduled, he says, and the strike is now in its second week.
"I think everybody would like to see it resolved soon. I just don't see it being resolved soon. I think this is going to be fairly protracted," he said on Monday.
Sinclair urged the approximately 500,000 students affected by the strike, however, to realize that they will "get through" it.
"Just continue to be patient," Sinclair said he would like to tell students.
"I know a lot of students may not have been through a labour disruption. A lot of the colleges have their ancillary operations running, like libraries and athletics. And when students do cross the picket line, they should be respectful."
Sinclair says no college in Ontario has ever lost a school year due to a labour disruption, and colleges in Ontario have been around for 50 years.
As for bargaining, he said the mediator will decide when both parties will return to the table. The mediator joined the dispute in early August.
The labour dispute involving more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians began last Monday, after the two sides couldn't resolve their differences. The faculty is represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
J.P. Hornick, chair of the college faculty bargaining team and a labour studies professor at George Brown College, said Sinclair's comments are unfortunate.
"It isn't wise and it's not necessarily true. If they would enter into actual negotiations versus a singular path to settlement, then they would actually have a stronger position to be able to say that," she said.
"The faculty has moved several times. The council has remained steadfast in its reluctance to address any of these issues."
Hornick said the union called a mediator last Thursday in the hopes that the council had changed its position but was told it had not.
"We are not yet back at the table," she said.
"We are very frustrated with council's continued position where they are refusing to negotiate at all. It's an incredible disservice to our students and also disrespectful to the faculty. I am hopeful that we will someday reach a resolution. It's really up to council to make the next move."
Eleven colleges have a reading week this week but picketing is continuing at all public colleges.
Over 101,000 have signed petition for refund
Meanwhile, students have collected more than 101,000 signatures in an online petition demanding a refund for days lost due to the strike.
On Wednesday, faculty members are expected to picket at the downtown Toronto office of Ontario's advanced education minister, Deb Matthews.
The idea is to put pressure on the minister to intervene to bring both sides back to the bargaining table, she said.
Talks broke off on Oct. 16. According to Sinclair, the final offer from the colleges is still on the table.
The union representing striking staff and faculty are demanding more full-time positions and an increased role in academic decision-making. The council has offered a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years and has promised to improve the conversion of contract faculty to full-time positions.
Both sides agree that the major issues are the ratio of part-time to full-time teachers and academic decision-making.