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Strike or lockout looms for Ontario colleges as negotiations breakdown

If a strike is initiated it will be the second one to impact Ontario college students in the last five years
Cambrian College.

A potential strike or lockdown could be looming for Ontario’s colleges, including Sudbury's Cambrian College and Collège Boréal, as negotiations between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council (CEC) have reached an impasse.

The CEC is a government-mandated bargaining agent for the 24 Ontario publicly-funded colleges representing some 14,000 full-time professors, counsellors, librarians and instructors, including Sudbury's Cambrian College and its roughly 4,000 students and the Collège Boréal network and its approximately 15,000 students.

“For more than five months, the parties have been meeting without success. Mediation failed and now conciliation has failed,” reads an update from the CEC posted on Thursday.

In the statement on Thursday, the CEC asked for a No Board report which allows both parties to move the bargaining process towards a conclusion.

A no-board report is a notice that the government will not appoint a conciliation board to settle a collective bargaining dispute. 

This notice may set the time when a legal strike or lockout can happen. In a statement, OPSEU president Warren Thomas says he’s disappointed with Thursday's turn of events, especially after both parties had signalled a deal was close, following a recent media blackout.

“After many years, and many rounds of negotiating, we’ve developed a mature bargaining relationship by now,” said Thomas. “That’s why it’s so disheartening that this is where the parties have landed. But I remain confident that reaching an agreement is still possible.”

The current contract expired on Sept. 30.

If a strike does occur, it would be the second strike to impact Ontario’s college students within the last five years.

In 2017 the Ontario College Strike, which affected upwards of 500,000 students, lasted five weeks before the provincial government passed back-to-work legislation.