Talk about an epic strategic failure.
Before this strike happened, many faculty were divided on the issues, and many of us weren’t sure we were willing to commit to a strike for them. I certainly wasn’t. But, boy, has that ever changed, thanks to some nasty bad-faith tactics employed by the College Employer Council. Indeed, college faculty across the province have changed their minds in droves.
Just look at the difference between the number of faculty who voted for a strike mandate in October versus the number who voted this week to reject the council’s recent forced contract offer. And look at the increase in the numbers of people who simply voted.
If I have my numbers right, as many as 11,000 of Ontario’s approximately 12,000 college faculty voted to reject the College Employer Council’s forced offer today compared to the approximately 7,200 faculty who voted in October to support a strike mandate.
The “no” vote is even more noteworthy when one considers that the stakes are getting higher by the day. The semester is in jeopardy. Our students are getting angrier—some with us and some with the college administration and provincial government. Our local union war chests are getting low (our strike funds come from money we all put away over several years for just such a crisis). Many of us are dipping into our lines of credit to feed our families. Most full-timers (like me) have nothing to gain financially by striking. And we see that our students—the people we are fighting the hardest for in this strike—are suffering just as we are.
Sadly, the current, dire situation could have been avoided if the council had bargained in good faith. Instead, it pretended to return to bargaining then threw out most of the items that it had conceded during the “fake” negotiations it had initiated. Then it appears to have lied about having reached agreement on all matters except academic freedom.
The council also had college presidents (like us, they are employees of the council) issue statements to students and faculty that were clearly meant to create division between students and faculty (these clearly did not support two of our own college’s core values: Students First or Integrity).
Ontario government and College Employer Council, you’ve really blown it. And unfortunately, it’s your clients—our students—who are caught in the vicious vortex you created by underfunding colleges (Ontario has the lowest funded college system in Canada per student) and by playing dirty pool in the negotiating process.