Strike looming for St. Lawrence College; president confident deal will be reached

KINGSTON – The president of St. Lawrence College says he’s “truly optimistic” a settlement between the college and union for faculty will be reached.

That’s despite the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) putting the wheels in motion for a strike or a lockout in mid-October if a deal can’t be reached.

On Friday (Sept. 21), the union asked the conciliator for a so-called “no-board” report, which can lead to a strike or a lock out after 16 days. The request will probably be approved sometime this week.

In a news release, OPSEU bargaining team chairman JP Hornick sees the move as a way to push the colleges out of “the current impasse” and into “real negotiations” around education quality and contract “fairness”.

But, in an interview with Newswatch on Friday, President Glenn Vollebregt suggested there wasn’t a stalemate and that talks between the college employer council and the central union bargaining unit for all Ontario colleges were continuing this week.

Vollebregt wouldn’t say how far apart both sides are in negotiations, though he did say there are “a number of points” that needed to be resolved.

“We’ve had 50 years of an excellent college system and we remain hopeful and optimistic that a settlement can be reached,” he said.

If there was a strike or lockout, classes at the Kingston, Brockville and Cornwall campuses would not be held, but Vollebreght said students would not lose their semester.

“There have been 12 strike votes since 1967 when the college was created. Three (of those votes) have come to a strike and at no point has a student ever lost a semester,” he said.

The three campuses have a total of roughly 10,000 full-time students.