What Happens Now?

Okay, 75% showed up, 57% of them voted in favour of a strike, including a majority of profs in 18 of Ontario’s 24 colleges.

Next?

This is just guesswork, and I’m not an authoritative source…

Firstly, we’ll see a return to the table.  That’s inevitable, and both sides have already announced their intention to “negotiate”.  Negotiating, however, doesn’t necessitate making actual substantial changes, compromises, or concessions, so the negotiations won’t necessarily lead to a deal.

The management can table an offer and force the union membership to vote on it, even if the union bargaining team dislikes it.  They can only do this once, though, and it’s a risky move — if the membership votes against the offer, then the colleges are stuck negotiating with the bargaining team for the rest of the process.

If the union becomes dissatisfied with the process of negotiations, it may call a strike.  If management becomes dissatisfied with the process of negotiations, it may call a lock-out.  Both sides could also consent to binding arbitration–the law doesn’t prohibit it.

I think that strikes could take different forms — a rotating strike, for example, or work-to-rule.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that all employees would be instructed to stop teaching all classes at all colleges, simultaneously.  But management could call a lock-out at any time, rather than put up with creative striking.  I suspect that the management could legally also stop paying union members as soon as the union organizes any kind of strike action (including, I think, work-to-rule), although one assumes that doing so would immediately produce a full-on strike.

Whether a majority of the faculty of any particular college voted for or against a strike is irrelevant — the bargaining unit has authorized the bargaining team to call a strike, and a strike could be called at any or all colleges.

In the event of a strike, colleges may opt to remain open, in whole or in part.  They would be able to hire replacement workers (at least, that’s what I’ve heard, although I don’t see those words explicitly in the legislation) and obliged to hire members of the bargaining unit who want to cross the picket line and who taught a class that’s still being provided by the college.

I think that, unlike a strike, a lock-out would have to lock-out all colleges simultaneously —  reading the CCBA doesn’t lead me to think that they’re allowed to lock out only specific colleges, although I’ve heard one speculation to the contrary from a trustworthy source.  I also don’t think they could stay open and hire replacement workers (since Article 51 in the CCBA mentions that employees could be reinstated during a strike, but doesn’t say anything about lock-outs).

In the event of a strike or lock-out, the government could pass back-to-work legislation.  This could include binding arbitration.

Hope this helps.  Again, these are just opinions, and not especially well-informed ones.

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