DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
DURHAM: Negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement are expected to resume this week between the Ontario Tech University Faculty Association and the university following a contentious round of bargaining earlier.
On Tuesday, February 1st, the university posted that the faculty association “intended to cease any further negotiations towards a renewal agreement” and were instead calling for a vote from their membership on the university’s “final offer.”
On Saturday, February 5th, the faculty association announced that 80 percent of their members voted to reject the university’s offer.
“The offer that was presented to us was mostly status quo, with some rollbacks. Issues still on the table are pension, workload [and] standard course definition,” Kimberly Nugent, the faculty association’s Interim President, told The Standard.
In a press release, the faculty association wrote, “faculty at Ontario Tech has had to deal with one of the highest student-to-faculty ratios in Canada.”
The university called the faculty association’s bargaining process into question in an online post.
“The university respects the process by which the majority interests of voting members within the Faculty Association bargaining unit are represented. As previously noted, the university has always committed to bargaining in good faith and with meaningful intent to negotiate a fair and fiscally responsible collective agreement,” the post stated. “However, the university was stunned last week with the Faculty Association bargaining team’s decision to suspend negotiations without concluding an agreement, which could be recommended to their membership. The reasons for this decision remain[s] unclear. Instead of continuing negotiations until a tentative settlement was reached that both Parties would recommend to their respective principals, the Faculty Association bargaining team took the unusual step of asking its membership to decide whether the university’s last offer was acceptable.”
However, this communication was met with disappointment and anger from faculty association members.
“That’s really disappointing. We’ve never bargained in the public before, so to see that update so public, it was really disheartening. It affected a lot of my colleagues, who really became angry. Fundamentally, what we want is an agreement that is about respect, equity and fairness. Obviously, that did not come through with their bargaining update, and it did not come through in their final offer,” Ms. Nugent stated.
She added discussions have been “more toxic than it needs to be.”
The faculty association is currently in a legal strike position but has not taken any strike action as of yet. Bargaining is expected to resume on Tuesday, February 8th (past The Standard’s press deadline).
“At the end of the day, even though we are in a legal strike position, the last thing we want to do is to be on strike. So, we’re asking the university to come back to the table,” Ms. Nugent said.