The union representing Ontario Colleges teachers and counselors has notified that labor action may be underway.

On Monday, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) gave the Council of University Employers (CEC) the necessary 5-day notice so members can start working to govern.

Work-to-rule will keep employees doing no more than the minimum outlined in their job description, but OPSEU Local 417 President Grant Currie says the intent is to emphasize management and administration without compromising the students.

Currie says he imagines the work to govern will continue as long as the CEC refuses to negotiate or agree to interest arbitration.

“The imposition of terms and conditions is the most egregious form of management, which practically does not respect the role of OPSEU as a negotiating party in the process,” Currie said in an email.

OPSEU says 59% of its members voted in favor of a strike mandate, but the CEC denies that the strike mandate hardly represents the majority of employees.

“Of full and part-time teachers, instructors, librarians and counselors, only 68% cast their vote,” the CEC said Monday.

“Consequently, the strike vote shows that approximately 40% of the teachers expressed their support for a strike.”

At the local level, Currie says, 74% of employees turned out and about 60% voted in favor of the mandate to equal the provincial number.

The CEC says it has not left the negotiating table and has been clear about where it cannot agree, as well as where it “still shows room for common ground.”

The Union requires certain conditions such as increasing the evaluation time for each student to 6.8 minutes per week from the current five, the consent of the faculty for the sale or reuse of the materials of the faculty’s courses and that the universities provide staff to schools with designated counselors and academic librarians.

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The CEC says its’ newly imposed terms and conditions improve working conditions for employees, including the maximum wage increases allowed by Bill 124

However, Currie says that the imposition of terms and conditions “precludes the possibility of good working relationships, removes the consent of teachers and is itself a form of work stoppage.”

The bargaining team says ongoing negotiations or interest arbitration would ensure job stability while allowing both parties’ proposals to be considered by an arbitrator.

All Ontario universities will pause for winter break after December 17, with the next semester starting on January 17.

Pickets on the Brockville campus in 2017

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