Ontario colleges reject latest proposals from faculty union

A bargaining group that represents 24 Ontario colleges in negotiations with the union representing professors, instructors and librarians has rejected the latest proposals from the union as a possible Monday strike looms.

Colleges spokesperson says talk prospects are 'pretty grim' ahead of union's Monday strike deadline

A bargaining group that represents 24 Ontario colleges in negotiations with the union representing professors, instructors and librarians has rejected the latest proposals from the union as possible strike looms for Monday.

A news release issued Friday by the College Employer Council said proposals presented today by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) did not change the substance or cost of earlier proposals. 

"The union is only tinkering with its proposals and not making the substantive changes needed to make a deal," said Sonia Del Missier, who chairs the colleges' bargaining team, in a news release. "The colleges' final offer is now the only path to a settlement."

Don Sinclair, the CEO of the College Employer Council, said the two sides remain far apart. 

"We've got a $400-million gap that we've got to bridge," he said Friday in an interview on CBC Radio. 

Faculty are set to walk off the job on Monday if the two sides can't reach an agreement. One of the key issues is the status and pay for part-time professors. 

The union has said 70 per cent of Ontario professors are in lower-paid, part-time positions with little job security. But Sinclair said more than half of their teaching is delivered by full-time faculty members. 

Sixty eight per cent of union members voted in favour of a strike mandate last month.

OPSEU, which represents more than 12,000 employees in the college system, has said the key issues include giving faculty and students more of a voice in academic decisions and what it calls the "ongoing exploitation of contract faculty."

Sinclair said there will be contingency plans for students if a strike happens Monday. 

He said in past work stoppages, Ontario college students "have never lost their academic year."

He said negotiating teams plan to continue talks at a Toronto hotel in hopes of getting a last-minute settlement.

"Hopefully the union will look at our final offer and we'll get a settlement but quite frankly, it's pretty grim," he said.