Government announcement: Plan to Reopen Post Secondary

Ross Romano delivered his announcement today alone at the podium.

The Minister announced what he termed a “pilot” of in-person instruction on campus, so 10,000 college and university students can complete labs and/or practicums and graduate.

The pilot would start July 2 and last eight weeks and will apparently “inform” re-opening plans for the fall term. On campus, “in-person instruction” will be required to follow health and safety protocols, including screening, regular disinfecting and cleaning, and physical distancing. Romano said one of the innovative aspects of the pilot will be “peer-to-peer monitoring” by workers or students to ensure physical distancing measures are followed.

Romano did not announce any new funding to help colleges and universities cover the costs of these enhanced measures.

Romano further announced a consultation that will wrap up in August, leading to major policy changes so that colleges and universities can “expand into new markets”:

  • transferability of credits
  • micro-credentials
  • more online learning.

In answer to a question from a CP24 reporter about the potential and concern that faculty and staff have about layoffs Romano said:

  • We don’t know the enrolment numbers yet
  • We hope today’s announcement will give more stability to the sector and to students thinking of putting down an deposit for fall tuition.
  • COVID-19 is a challenging time for everyone and colleges and universities won’t be immune to the challenges, they are “autonomous” institutions who have to do what they feel is appropriate.
  • At the end of the day, “colleges and universities are a business, they are in the business of providing academic services to students and learners”

Just as a matter of background. There are approximately 600,000 “students and learners” in the province. And he quoted 10,000 students as the number requiring lab or practicum hours in order to graduate.

The government’s press release is here.

In Solidarity,

Nancy Heath
President, OPSEU Local 245

Local 245 Response to the Furlough Agreement

Almost two weeks ago a resounding number of you came together to vote on the potential for talks between members of our division leadership and College Employer Council (CEC). While the vote was close across the province, the vote resulted in a “No” and talks were declined. Our vote here at Sheridan were #372 NO and 82 YES.

Friday, May 8th, a number of colleges with local “yes” votes began receiving offers of an agreement proposed by CEC, presumably the agreement that they had intended on tabling with OPSEU. We were approached by our Staff Rep on Friday May 8th via voicemail which we only just reviewed.

What we did not know at the time was that OPSEU went forward into discussions without our knowledge. OPSEU Central and College Employer Council developed a template agreement that was sent out to all 24 colleges modifying the agreement we had seen on Friday May 8th. We received a copy of the agreement from OPSEU, not from management, though they do know we received it for review

Your executive met several times over the last two weeks and reviewed the agreement and the situation before us, given that we felt our “no” vote was a strong mandate for us to adhere to the CA. We noted considerable concerns with the agreement, the very least of which gave up many of our rights under Article 15 for any member regardless of seniority and provided little to no additional protections for our already laid off part-timers. Other than that one voicemail left by our Staff Rep, we have not been approached by Sheridan College with a request to consider this “furlough agreement”. It was hinted at to two of our LEC Members in meetings last Thursday and we have called the College on the inappropriate method of trying to broker a deal with us. We are standing behind your “NO” vote and continue to file grievances at the Employer’s failure to follow Article 15 for FT Support Staff.

Your union leaders have been working tirelessly at all hours to work through the information, asking questions, finding answers, walking through various scenarios and attempt to weigh the benefits vs the concessions in all situations. We’ve been working together across the province meeting with other college support staff leaders and OPSEU staff. We all feel strongly that we cannot endorse an agreement which infringes on the rights that exist within our CA.

The attached “Response to the Furlough Agreement” was drawn up by the elected members of the Divisional Executive and Employee Employer Relations Committee to outline the division’s position.

We do not take these discussions lightly, and a plan was in place to discuss openly with you, but unfortunately a copy of the recent furlough agreement was posted online, before we had an opportunity to contact you directly. We do not plan on airing the Local’s issues on Facebook due to the nature of some of the information being shared.

As it stands, we are prepared to continue to uphold the language of the collective agreement and proceed as necessary working with the college. Now more than ever, we need to stand united here at Sheridan and across the province.

In Solidarity,

Nancy Heath
President, OPSEU Local 245