Arbitration Update

Editor's Note: Here is an update on the arbitration process that is now underway to settle the contract impasse between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), representing faculty members at Ontario's two dozen colleges. This is from the OPSEU website:

Arbitrator William Kaplan has set out his schedule for trying to arrive at a new collective agreement for Ontario college faculty through mediation.

Beginning December 12, both the College Employer Council and OPSEU will file mediation briefs to give the arbitrator background information on the issues in dispute. Kaplan, an experienced arbitrator agreed to by both parties, will meet with union representatives December 14 and employer representatives December 15. After that, there will be two days of mediation December 16-17.

If the parties do not reach a new collective agreement through mediation, arbitration of unresolved matters will begin in early- to mid-January.

Earlier this week, the Council’s law firm, Hicks Morley, brought a preliminary motion before the arbitrator to speed up the process and have arbitration start before January. The arbitrator did not grant the motion, and instead accepted the timeline proposed by the union. Kaplan also denied another motion from Council, which called for a freeze on the filing and processing of grievances or workload complaints related to faculty’s return to work post-strike. This is an important victory for the union: absent a return-to-work protocol, the grievance process is essential to protecting faculty’s rights in the workplace.

Bill 178 directs the arbitrator to finalize the new collective agreement no later than 90 days after being appointed. While this deadline may be extended if both parties agree, a likely scenario is that faculty will have a new contract before the end of February 2018. If the contract is ordered by the arbitrator, it will be final and binding, with no ratification by the parties.

Council has agreed that OPSEU’s participation in the mediation/arbitration process is “without prejudice” to the union’s position on Bill 178, the back-to-work legislation passed November 19, is a violation of faculty’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.