September 20, 2020

BY NATALEIGH MCCALLUM

Students can breathe a sigh of relief, as management and the union representing college faculty have reached a tentative agreement. The agreement between the faculty of all 24 Ontario community colleges and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) will be voted on tomorrow.

The new agreement proposes a 37-month contract and includes a salary increase for all faculty members. It also proposed a 1.2 per cent increase in the first year, a 1.5 per cent increase in the second year and a 1.8 per cent increase in the third. It may not seem like much but Martin Hare, the vice-president of Local 237, which represents faculty at Conestoga, said with the current economic condition it’s better than nothing.

“It sounds like it was a very tough round of bargaining on both sides,” he said. “You have to have a look at the whole big picture. The public service unions are essentially government workers. And certainly the provincial government, the whole of the country, is struggling with this 2008 subprime mortgage problem that has rippled right around the world and it’s caused a lot of hardship with a lot of people and slowed a lot of economies down. Ontario and Canada are doing better than most.”

He added, “Recognizing that Ontario has run out of money, just getting even these very small increases is something.”

Hare is right; we do need to look at the big picture. But we also need to look at the quality of education being offered.

Hare said maintaining a system of quality education is very important.

“What I’ve experienced in the last 10 years is a real nosedive in quality education in the province and I do worry about it,” he said. “For me personally, education is absolutely critical to both the future of Ontario and the future of Canada. We are becoming more and more a global economy and the only thing that is going to separate Canada and protect our costs of living is going to be our brainpower and our ingenuity. Educating the current generations, which I’ve done for over 25 years, is absolutely critical.”

Debra Marshall, executive director of Human Resources at Conestoga College, was pleased with the proposed settlement and found that it was bringing stability back.

“It’s positive for the college and students,” Marshall said.

We agree. This tentative agreement, if approved, will bring labour peace for three more years and will allow faculty to concentrate on what they do best – which is teach. To our faculty members we say, vote yes.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.

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