Now that she's helped college faculty reach a two-year tentative deal with their employers, Carolyn Gaunt said she's excited to be heading back to the classroom.
“Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely,” said the co-chair of the OPSEU bargaining team representing college faculty and the co-ordinator of Cambrian College's human resources management program.
“I get a great deal of pleasure from working with the people I work with in my classes. It's the best part of the job. The marking, not so much, but the students are fantastic.”
The Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU), which represents 10,000 college faculty across the province, reached a tentative deal with the College Employer Council during the afternoon of Aug. 28.
The College Employer Council represents college administration in negotiations.
Gaunt describes the tentative deal as “not super-fantastic, but given the times, it'll do.”
The fact that the two parties reached the deal before the school year started and before the faculty's last contract expires Aug. 31 is good news, she said.
“We are actually ahead of the game.”
The ratification vote will be organized by the Ontario Labour Relations Board. A date for the vote has not yet been set, Gaunt said.
If ratified, the deal would be in effect from Sept. 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2014.
While it contains a wage freeze for college faculty, Gaunt said it does include gains for partial-load faculty.
“Somebody who is teaching classes partial-load now, if those courses come up again as a partial-load opportunity, these people get priority in hiring,” she said. “They get some continuity and they can plan their lives a little bit. A little bit of job stability is always welcome when you're working part time.”
Earlier this month, OPSEU had applied to the labour relations board to hold a strike vote, and the two parties seemed to be far apart.
However, Gaunt said that on Aug. 27, the colleges took a number of concessions they wanted from college faculty off the table, speeding the way to a tentative deal.
For example, colleges gave up on the idea of introducing the position of nursing facilitators, who would teach student nurses their practical classes. Right now, faculty members are able to teach both aspects of the profession.
“There would have been a whole separate class of faculty members that would have been paid at half the rate and had twice the workload, doing the clinical work,” Gaunt said.
The colleges also decided not to pursue concessions relating to faculty members' benefits, she said.
The chair of the College Employer Council's bargaining team, Sonia Del Missier, also works for Cambrian College.
Del Missier, vice-president of academics at Cambrian College, said in a press release that the tentative deal is “great news” for students, faculty and colleges, because it removes the threat of a strike.
“Both sides bargained hard and came to a settlement that is reasonable to faculty and affordable for the colleges.”
Cambrian College president Sylvia Barnard echoed Del Missier's comments in an email statement.
“The tentative agreement is welcome news for Cambrian College students, staff, and faculty who are getting ready for the start of a busy school year,” she said.
“Our growing student body of over 4,000 learners can begin the fall semester knowing that they will have an uninterrupted opportunity to learn, to gain experience, and to build their careers surrounded by dedicated professors and staff who are there to help them succeed.
“In particular, with a projected increase in first-year enrolment, we are very pleased that our new students will have a smooth start to their studies.”
Donald Malette, human resources director at Collège Boréal, said in an email statement the college is pleased a tentative deal has been reached.
“We are confident that it will be ratified and we look forward to welcoming, next week, all our students for a new exciting year,” he said.