How were bargaining demands created?

Demands were generated through local demand-set meetings held at all 24 faculty locals in early 2021. Each local then sent their top 10 demands to the bargaining team so they could be included in the provincial demand-set book.

Each academic local sent delegates to the provincial final demand-set (FDS) meeting, held remotely on April 9 and 10, 2021.

Delegates at the FDS meeting then debated and voted on the proposed demands. Delegates at the meeting passed the demands below.

What are our top demands?

Coming out of the FDS meeting, the global demands were:

  • Workload

o   Ensure that workload is properly recorded and that these measurements accurately reflect all aspects of work, including changes in student needs, modes of delivery, professional requirements, and technological demands.

  • Collegial academic decision-making/intellectual property

o   Institute a system of collegial decision-making.

o   Strengthen the decision-making authority of faculty over course materials and modes of evaluation.

o   Establish faculty ownership of all educational materials produced in the course of employment.

  • Partial-load

o   Ensure that all work performed by partial-load faculty is recognized, recorded and compensated.

o   Improve language around partial-load staffing and job security.

  • Equity/harassment/racism

o   Strengthen language to prevent bullying, harassment and racism, and provide oversight and accountability.

o   Improve efficiency, fairness, equitability and cultural sensitivity of dispute resolution process.

o   Strengthen language to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion of equity-seeking groups in hiring, retention, advancement, workload and compensation.

  • Staffing/bargaining unit

o   Ensure that all academic work is performed by faculty who are employees of that college.

o   Establish staffing ratios for each college, including minimum staffing ratios for full-time.

o   Establish minimum complements of full-time counsellors and librarians at each college.

  • Job definition

o   Clarify the co-ordinator role, including but not limited to the selection process for co-ordinators, preference for full-time faculty, time allocated, salary steps and issues of equity, including co-ordinator duties for counsellors and librarians.

  • Job expertise

o   Ensure all faculty have the freedom to take employment, consulting or teaching activities outside the college in cases that do not cause any conflict of interest.

  • Compensation

o   Implement an increase in wages and benefits that is consistent with our established comparators and current legislation (Bill 124).

o   Include benefit coverage for medical cannabis and dental implants.

How were demands turned into contract language?

From April to June, the bargaining team put the demands passed at the FDS meeting into contract language. They did this by linking demands to the current Collective Agreement (CA) language, and looking at language proposed in previous rounds of bargaining and contained in other faculty CAs. Consultation with OPSEU/SEFPO legal counsel, the OPSEU/SEFPO research department, OPSEU/SEFPO Negotiations and Arbitrations and with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) was an important part of this process.

When did bargaining start?

Article 36 (Duration of Collective Agreement and the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA)) dictates the timelines for bargaining. Either party to a collective agreement may give written notice to the other party, within the period of 90 days before the agreement expires, of its desire to negotiate with the view to the renewal, with or without modification, of the agreement then in operation [from CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 3 (2)].

The current CA expired on September 30, and bargaining began on July 7, after the faculty team provided Council with notice to bargain on July 2.

It is also indicated that the parties shall meet within 30 days after giving notice under section 3 and shall negotiate in good faith and make every reasonable effort to make a CA or to renew the CA, as the case requires [from CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 4.].

What is the bargaining process?

The faculty and employer bargaining teams agree on dates to bargain during the 90-day period. In the first meetings, each side agreed to ground rules. Following that, each side determined how to present their bargaining package. The teams continued to meet on agreed-upon dates to discuss, amend, present or withdraw proposals.

Throughout this process, the faculty bargaining team is assigned an OPSEU/SEFPO negotiator, researcher, communications officer and legal experts.

As bargaining progresses, the faculty team shares regular communications to members about the key issues on the table and the progress of negotiations. The CAAT-A Divisional Executive (DivEx) also remains active throughout, and will help the bargaining team with member communications, and liaising with the Bargaining Advisory Committee.

How is an agreement reached?

At any time during the bargaining process, the parties can reach a tentative agreement. If the team feels that there is a suitable agreement, they consult with two groups – the 24 local presidents and the Bargaining Advisory Committee (BAC), comprised of 32 full-time and partial-load faculty – to give feedback on the proposed contract.

The bargaining team then makes the final decision on any settlement, and the team may accept or reject the feedback from the BAC or presidents. If the CAAT-A bargaining team recommends acceptance of a negotiated tentative agreement, a ratification vote is requested by the team and scheduled by the Ontario Labour Relations Board for members to accept or decline the agreement.

What happens if bargaining stalls?


If bargaining has stalled, one or both parties can call for voluntary mediation. Both parties need to agree to mediation and can engage an independent mediator or one appointed by the Ministry of Labour. The faculty team requested pre-conciliation mediation in September. An independent mediator was subsequently appointed, but the mediation concluded after one month without an agreement.

Strike vote

If bargaining is at an impasse, the CAAT-A bargaining team can call for a strike vote. This can happen either before or after the CA expires. A vote “yes” to strike does not necessarily mean there will be a strike. However, a yes vote does increase the pressure on the employer to negotiate a fair settlement that addresses faculty demands. When membership offers the team a strong yes vote, the team is in a stronger position to make gains at the table. A strong yes vote demonstrates support and trust in the bargaining team.


Conciliation is a process by which a trade union or an employer can ask the Ministry of Labour for help in resolving their differences so they can reach a CA. Either party may apply to the Ministry. If parties are in negotiations, they must use the government’s conciliation services before they can get into a position to engage in a strike or lockout (following the issuance of a “no board” report). Either side can call for a “no board” report from the conciliator during this process, signalling that a CA was not able to be effected. The minister then issues a notice informing the union and the employer that he or she “does not consider it advisable to appoint a conciliation board” [section 21(b) of the Labour Relations Act]. Following the report, there is a 16-day cooling-off period before notice of lockout or strike can be given, or before the employer can impose terms and conditions. Mediation can occur following the “no board” report but only if both sides agree to it.

Final-offer vote

The employer may, no earlier than 15 days before the expiry of a CA, make a request in writing to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a vote of the employees to be held to either accept or reject the Council’s latest offer, and with respect to all matters remaining in dispute between the parties to the collective agreement [CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 17 (2)].

Only one request may be made under subsection (2) [CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 17 (3)]. The earliest it can happen is 15 days before the expiry of the CA, which would have been September 15, 2021.

Where a request is made by the Council, a vote by secret ballot by the members of the bargaining unit shall be conducted under the supervision of, and in the manner determined by, the Ontario Labour Relations Board [CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 17 (4)].

The union cannot call a final offer vote (only a ratification or strike vote, as noted above).

Imposed terms and conditions

The CCBA allows the employer to impose terms and conditions of work when the CA has expired, where there has been a “no board” report filed by the conciliator to the Minister of Labour, and where a minimum of 16 days have passed since the filing of the no-board report. The terms could include anything. This action bypasses the bargaining table.

Voluntary binding arbitration

Either party can also request that both sides agree to engage in voluntary binding arbitration as a means to avoid labour disruption and settle outstanding issues using the services of an independent arbitrator. Both sides would present evidence and arguments to support their proposals, and the arbitrator issues a binding decision determining which proposals will be included in the CA.

What does a strike vote permit the bargaining team to do?

A successful strike vote demonstrates to the employer that faculty are willing to back up their demands for change and take action. The stronger the strike vote, the more power faculty have at the bargaining table.

A strike vote allows the bargaining team to call for co-ordinated labour action. A brief list of tactics to put pressure on the college administrators include:

  • work-to-rule (i.e., only doing work required by the CA)
  • escalating withdrawal of certain types of work
  • rotating strikes
  • full strikes


Escalating work-to-rule and similar labour actions have been used very successfully in the education sector to put pressure on employers, demonstrate the importance of faculty work, and limit the impact on students.

All labour action considered by the bargaining team takes into account the strategic timing and impact of such action. Co-ordinated shows of solidarity by faculty lessen the likelihood that a full, system-wide strike will be necessary to achieve the necessary changes we are seeking.

When can a strike or lockout be called?

A strike can be called only after:

  1. a) there is no CA in operation between the Council and the employee organization that represents the employee;
  2. b) a conciliation officer has made a report to the Minister of Labour under clause 7 (3) (b) to the effect that, despite his or her efforts, the terms of a Collective Agreement have not been settled, and the minister has informed the parties of the report, by notice in writing, in accordance with subsection 7 (4);
  3. c) the members of the bargaining unit have voted in favour of a strike, by a vote by secret ballot, conducted under the supervision of, and in the manner determined by, the Ontario Labour Relations Board;
  4. d) after a vote in favour of a strike in accordance with clause (c), the employee organization that represents the employee gives the Council and the employer written notice of the strike, and of the date on which the strike will commence, at least five days before the commencement of the strike; and
  5. e) 16 days have elapsed after the date on the minister’s notice referred to in clause (b) [CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 17 (1)].

It is important to note that a tentative agreement can still be reached at any point during this process.

It is also important to stress that the bargaining team never calls a strike lightly. It is only used when all other avenues for negotiation have failed, and when the issues at stake are of sufficient importance.

Strike deadline

Where there has been a “yes” to a strike vote, the union has the authority to set a strike deadline with five days’ notice to the employer. A strike deadline further increases pressure on the employer to reach a fair agreement.


There has never been a lockout at Ontario colleges.

The Council can only lock out employees if:

  1. a) there is no collective agreement in operation between the Council and the employee organization that represents the employees;
  2. b) a conciliation officer has made a report to the Minister of Labour under clause 7 (3) (b) to the effect that, despite his or her efforts, the terms of a Collective Agreement have not been settled, and the minister has informed the parties of the report, by notice in writing, in accordance with subsection 7 (4);
  3. c) the Council, on behalf of all employers, gives the employee organization that represents the employees written notice of the lockout and of the date on which the lockout will commence at least five days before the commencement of the lockout; and
  4. d) 16 days have elapsed after the date on the minister’s notice referred to in clause (b) [CCBA-2008, c. 15, s. 21 (1)].
What happens if there is a strike?

After a successful strike vote is taken, each local will begin strike preparations. If a strike is called, each local will enact its strike plan.

As a member on strike, you stop working, support the picket line and other strike activities, and keep up on communications from the bargaining team. It will also be important to do your best to answer the questions that family, friends, students and others will direct to you about the cause of the strike, about the issues that are important to you, and about our desire to resolve it quickly and obtain a fair agreement.

How many times have college faculty been on strike?

In 50 years, there have been only four faculty strikes: in 1984, 1989, 2006 and 2017.

How long will a strike last?

The length of any strike is difficult to predict, but in the past, no strike by college faculty has lasted longer than five weeks. Back-to-work legislation from the provincial government is a possibility, as occurred in 2006 and 2017.

Will we be on strike over the holidays?


Have faculty gained anything from striking?

Yes. Each time faculty have gone on strike, they have made important gains that have clearly improved working conditions and the quality of college education.

In 1984, after being legislated back to work and having outstanding issues referred to arbitration, faculty won the Workload Formula and the Standard Workload Form (SWF). Before the SWF, full-time faculty could be assigned up to 26 teaching contact hours (TCH) each semester.

In the 1989 strike, the parties agreed to refer matters to arbitration, and faculty defended against management’s attempt to remove the SWF, won more time for complementary functions, and won comprehensive layoff protection language.

In the 2006 strike, again after agreeing to refer outstanding issues to arbitration, faculty made significant gains in salary that put us closer to the mid-range of our comparator groups (high school teachers and university faculty), as well as expanded benefits for partial-load professors.

In 2017, after the Council forced a final offer vote and 86 per cent of faculty rejected it, with 95 per cent of members casting a vote, the government legislated faculty back to work. Arbitrator Kaplan then determined the new CA. Faculty won academic freedom and the Partial-Load Registry, which ensures seniority rights and improves job security.

Will I receive strike pay?

All faculty who are OPSEU/SEFPO members in good standing (have signed a union card) and who participate in strike duties are eligible to receive strike pay. The amount of strike pay given by OPSEU/SEFPO is as follows:

During weeks one to three, each member is entitled to strike pay of $200 per week plus an additional $50 per week per dependant. The daily rate is $40 per day and $10 per day per dependant.

During the fourth week, strike pay increases and each member is entitled to $300 per week, or $60 per day. Dependant pay remains the same at $50 per week per dependant. A dependant is defined as:

  • a non-income-earning spouse (excluding a spouse on strike);
  • a child under 18 (or under 26 if attending school full-time) or a dependent child as defined by the collective agreement or benefit plan;
  • a disabled family member; or
  • an elderly family member who normally receives financial support from the striking member.

If both spouses are on strike, both may claim the dependants.

In addition to what OPSEU/SEFPO gives to members for strike pay, your local may also give a weekly top-up amount. To find out about local strike pay, contact your local executive.

Will partial-load faculty receive strike pay?

Yes, if a partial-load faculty is a member in good standing (has signed a union card) and participates in picketing and/or strike duties, they will receive strike pay at the rates mentioned above.

When is the bargaining process completed?

When the membership has voted to ratify a tentative agreement (reached through bargaining between the parties), that means the membership has voted to accept the tentative agreement. The CCBA does not give access for interest arbitration to the parties during bargaining. Both parties can consent to voluntary interest arbitration on any issue, as was done during the strikes of 1984, 1989, 2006 and 2017.

When a new CA is in place, bargaining is concluded until the next round.


CA Collective Agreement
CAAT-A Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology-Academic (professors, instructors, librarians and counsellors)
The Council The College Employer Council, or the employer. They bargain on behalf of management.