On April 9-10, passionate and highly motivated college faculty delegates and observers gathered virtually to lay out and rank the top demands the bargaining team will take to the table. The CAAT-A collective agreement will expire on September 30, 2021.
Divisional Executive Chair RM Kennedy welcomed participants from all 24 locals by noting faculty’s extremely high levels of engagement this round.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas thanked faculty for their determination to keep the learning process going during the pandemic. “Your efforts have kept the dreams of half-a-million students alive,” he said. “You’ve got my thanks and the gratitude of all those who look to our public college education as the indispensable key to a bright and promising future.”
As for bargaining, Thomas warned that the sudden suppression of Sheridan’s academic senate did not set the stage for “cordial bargaining.”
“The employer’s going to be tricky and tough,” he said. “But the union’s here to help you get a great contract – and you can take that to the bank.”
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer underscored that the system was in need of a complete financial overhaul. “The status quo is not viable – and the pandemic has shown that abundantly,” he noted. “Our colleges must have reliable and predictable government funding going into the future – we’ve been telling the government that for years.”
Almeida expressed his confidence in the bargaining team.
“They’re smart, they’re experienced and they’re committed,” he said. “In my view, that’s a great recipe for success. It’s going to be a bumpy ride – but they’ll pull it off. And the ace up their sleeve is the OPSEU/SEFPO 180,000 members who’ll back them up all the way, not to mention the union’s professional staff and healthy financial footing.”
The morning continued with informative and stimulating presentations. Bargaining Team Chair JP Hornick spoke to the team’s commitment to organizing, communication and solidarity-building. Members Martin Devitt (Local 242, Niagara) and Kevin MacKay (Local 240, Mohawk) presented an update to the 2014 Report on Education, which summarizes the pressing issues facing the college system.
The afternoon and Saturday morning were given over to defining and ranking the demands, following which Hornick assured everyone of the team’s determination to keep delegates, Bargaining Advisory Team members and all CAAT-A members fully informed and included as the bargaining process unfolded.
“The team will ensure the involvement of members every step of the way,” she assured delegates. “We heard and appreciate everything that came forward during this rich discussion, debate and dialogue.
“You’re sending us forward with a strong mandate,” she continued. “The list of demands we’ve arrived at is infused with a concern for equity and partial-load faculty. Without addressing these perfectly reasonable and zero-cost issues, we can’t move forward, simple as that.”
The bargaining team chair said their bargaining strategy would focus on equity, solidarity and fairness leading to a better system for students, faculty and staff – and she encouraged delegates to take the energy generated at the meeting home to their locals.
“To succeed in bargaining for better, we must have the power of the members with us,” she said. “So spread the word and stand behind what we’ve achieved here. It’s our guide and our path forward.”
The team will now concentrate on refining and fine-tuning language and strategy as they prepare for bargaining in July.