College Employer Council (CEC) and CAAT-A (College Academic Faculty) (represented by: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)) Bargaining 2021

In February 2021, the College Employer Council (who represents Ontario’s publicly-funded colleges) reached out to the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (the union representing College Faculty, Counsellors, and Librarians) to offer a 2-year extension to their collective agreement. This offer was declined, and discussions began to negotiate a new collective agreement to replace the one set to expire on September 30, 2021. Throughout the negotiation process, both sides have been providing updates of how the process has gone and accused each other of not bargaining in good faith.

These discussions have broken down and could temporarily interrupt over 275,000 full-time college students’ education in the Winter 2022 semester. As your student association, we are advocating to encourage both sides to return to the bargaining table or agree to mutually agreeable binding arbitration terms to ensure there is no disruption to your student experience.

We also want to provide you with an explanation of what has already happened and what could happen in the near future. We have created this webpage to keep you updated on the negotiation process and answer common questions.

We will continue to post updates to this page, social media, and our app as they are available.

What Can You Do?

Share with us how a labour disruption, such as a strike, could affect your housing situation, your mental health, your academic success, and more. We will use your feedback to demonstrate to both sides the impact this could have on students and why they should continue negotiating in good faith for a mutually agreeable settlement. Your feedback will also help us plan how CSI can support you if a disruption to the Winter 2022 semester occurs.
Feedback Form

What has happened so far:

Early February 2021 The College Employer Council (CEC) offered a two-year extension to the Collective Agreement set to expire on September 30, 2021.
February 23, 2021 The union representing CAAT-A Academic Staff (Faculty, Counsellors, and Librarians), known as Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU), rejected the offer to extend the Collective Agreement.
July 7-9, 2021 The bargaining process between the CEC and OPSEU began. Both sides exchanged proposals they felt would improve the Collective Agreement.
August 3-5, 2021 The bargaining process continued with both sides asking for clarification on proposals, providing supporting data for their proposals, and amending their proposals to come to an agreement.
August 10-12, 2021 Further negotiations continued to try and amend the Collective Agreement to satisfy both sides.
September 9-15, 2021 Further negotiations continued to try and amend the Collective Agreement to satisfy both sides, and the CEC presented an offer for OPSEU to propose to CAAT-A for a vote.
September 17, 2021 The union refused the offer and asked the CEC to agree to pre-conciliation mediation to achieve a negotiated settlement.
September 20-24, 2021 The CEC and OPSEU clarified details of mediation, including costs, process, etc.
September 28, 2021 The CEC and OPSEU entered mediation with Mediator Keller under a media blackout.
October 28, 2021 Mediation concluded and was unsuccessful in negotiating a settlement agreement.
November 1, 2021 The CEC submitted a request for the Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliator. The CEC also filed a complaint against OPSEU with the Ontario Labour Relations Board accusing OPSEU of bargaining in bad faith.
November 8-11, 2021 The CEC and OPSEU agreed to resume bargaining with a proposed settlement offer from OPSEU while under a media blackout beginning November 8. No agreement was reached, and the media blackout ended as of November 11.
November 18, 2021 Both parties returned to bargain for a settlement agreement with the assistance of a conciliator appointed by the Ministry of Labour. OPSEU proposed a formal offer to the CEC and included a request for areas that could not be agreed upon to be referred to voluntary binding interest arbitration. The CEC rejected the offer and requested a “No Board” report.
November 19, 2021 OPSEU has requested a strike vote of CAAT A members to be conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
November 24, 2021 The CEC provided a revised offer of settlement for OPSEU’s consideration.
November 25, 2021 The CEC has proposed voluntary binding, final offer selection arbitration. This means each side proposes a final offer, and the arbitrator will pick one and only one in its entirety, and it becomes binding.
November 26, 2021 OPSEU shared their disappointment with the CEC’s final offer selection arbitration proposal and will not be accepting it.

OPSEU announced the “No Board” report was received, and the strike vote has been scheduled for December 9 – 11.

December 9-11, 2021 CAAT-A members casted their votes to grant or oppose a strike mandate for their union (OPSEU) through the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
December 11/12, 2021 The results of the CAAT-A strike vote were released. CAAT-A members voted in favour of a strike mandate for their union (OPSEU). CAAT-A members have provided 5 days’ notice and will begin work-to-rule as of December 18, 2021.
December 13, 2021 The College Employer Council (CEC) imposed new employment terms on CAAT-A members. For more information on the imposed terms, click here.
December 18, 2021 The CAAT-A members began Phase 1 of their Work-to-Rule campaign. For more information on what is included in Phase 1 of the Work-to-Rule campaign, click here.
January 3, 2022 The CAAT-A members began Phase 2 of their Work-to-Rule campaign. For more information on what is included in Phase 2 of the Work-to-Rule campaign, click here.
January 17, 2022 The CEC submitted a request to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have their final offer put forward for a vote by CAAT-A members. The CEC also requested CAAT-A members continue to work and avoid further labour action until the vote results are released. Timelines for the vote are to be determined.
January 18, 2022 The CEC, OPSEU, and the Ontario Labour Relations Board have agreed to hold the Final Offer Vote for CAAT-A Faculty from February 15-17.

What could happen next?

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) will schedule and facilitate a vote on the final offer the CEC has proposed. If CAAT-A members vote in favour of the offer, the bargaining process will be over and the new offer will become the collective agreement. If CAAT-A members vote against the offer, they may begin to take further labour action such as a strike.

The actions that could occur during the Winter 2022 semester include:

  • CEC and OPSEU can continue to bargain for an agreement – this is the ideal option for all parties!
  • CEC and OPSEU could agree to send unresolved issues to binding arbitration on mutually agreeable terms.
  • The union (OPSEU) can strike (a strike vote has been held and it was in favour of a strike). The union (OPSEU) has stated they plan to participate in an escalating labour action campaign that begins with work-to-rule and rotating strikes to avoid the need for a general strike. A strike could include:
    • Work-to-rule (This is currently happening. CAAT-A members only do what the collective agreement requires and nothing more)
    • Rotating strikes (a series of strikes, each lasting up to a day)
    • Strategic strikes (a work stoppage of a limited number of members within the CAAT-A members)
    • General strike (full work stoppage)
  • The CEC could lock-out CAAT-A members preventing them from continuing to work (the CEC has stated they will not do this).
  • The CEC can change the terms of employment outlined in the collective agreement for CAAT-A members (This has been done and is currently in effect).
  • The CEC can request a “last offer vote” (an offer of settlement that CAAT-A members vote on without their union’s endorsement).


List of Common Terms:

College of Applied Art and Technology, Academic (includes Faculty, Counsellors, and Librarians)

A person or panel listens to both sides in the negotiation and issues a decision which both parties must follow.

Bad Faith:
When a party in a negotiation does not bargain with the intention of coming to an agreement.

Bargaining Agent:
A union that represents employees in the collective bargaining process (in this case, it is OPSEU)

Bargaining Unit:
the members represented in the bargaining process (CAAT-A members)

Collective Agreement:
a contract between an employer and union that outlines the employees’ terms and conditions of their employment

A process that aids in resolving a labour dispute and is required before a legal strike or lock-out.

Good Faith:
A concept that requires both parties to bargain with the intention of reaching an agreement.

Last Offer Vote:
A vote on an offer of settlement provided directly by the employer to the bargaining unit without the union’s support. The Minister of Labour must direct the vote at the employer’s request and may only be done once during a round of collective bargaining.

When management refuses to let employees work to try to force a settlement.

Media Blackout:
A ban on the publication of information related to a specific item

a process for resolving labour disputes that includes a mediator who acts as a neutral third party and attempts to assist both sides to come to an agreement.

No-Board Report:
when an agreement is not reached during conciliation, the conciliation officer will notify the Minister of Labour; they will normally issue a report stating a board of reconciliation will not be appointed. This report allows further labour action to be taken on the 17th day after the report is issued.

Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB):
the government organization that certifies unions, adjudicates unfair labour practices, and other charges and disputes.

a work stoppage or refusal by employees to continue working under a set of certain conditions.

Strike Vote:
a vote of bargaining unit members (CAAT-A members) to determine whether they agree to a strike if necessary.

  • What is work-to-rule?

    Work-to-rule means employees perform their job slowly or follow the law as closely as possible to stall productivity.

  • What is a strike?

    Strikes are peaceful protests by employees seeking better working conditions or other changes to their collective agreement. The objective of a strike is to put pressure on the employer in collective bargaining. A strike is often labour groups most powerful and useful tool. They can be a day or for an extended period of time.

    It is safe to cross the picket line to come onto college property if a strike occurs. People entering may be stopped by faculty as they try to explain the reasons they are striking.

  • What has to happen for a strike to occur?
    1. Negotiations must have failed, and the Minister of Labour must issue a No-Board report.
    2. The union must have a strike vote.
    3. The results of the vote must be over 50% in favour of a strike.
    4. The union must provide 5 days’ notice before they may commence a strike.
  • How likely is a strike?

    At this time, it is unknown how likely it is a general strike will occur. CAAT-A members have voted in favour of a strike mandate, but this does not guarantee a strike.

    CAAT-A members have announced they will pursue an escalating work-to-rule and labour action campaign to pressure the CEC and attempt to avoid a full strike. This labour action campaign began with work-to-rule as of December 18, 2021.

  • How could a strike, lock-out or other labour action impact the Winter 2022 semester?

    There is the potential the Winter 2022 semester could be interrupted and/or extended. There is no guarantee that labour action (strikes, lock-outs, etc.) will happen, and we cannot predict the impact. However, if the semester is impacted, CSI will do everything possible to ensure that all students have the opportunity to complete the semester.

  • If a strike happens, what should I do?
    • Leave extra time for travelling to the college as picket lines will be set up at campus entrances and limit traffic flow.
    • You should consider arriving early to avoid picket lines.
    • If taking transit and required to be on campus, be aware transit buses will be dropping off students outside of the campus to respect the picket lines.
    • Continue to access eConestoga for your courses will still be available for student access.
    • Do not try to contact your faculty through Conestoga emails or eConestoga. They will not be accessing eConestoga or their email.
    • Be respectful of the picketers; they have the right to strike.
  • If a strike happens and Counselling Services are unavailable, where can I receive mental health support?
  • If there is a strike, will I need to continue working on my coursework?

    In the event of a full work stoppage, exams, tests and assignments are likely to be postponed until after the strike is resolved. You should continue to have access to course materials through eConestoga and may choose to take advantage of college resources and services to continue your studies independently and prepare for the resumption of classes.

  • If a strike happens, will it impact my International Student visa?

    The strike will not impact your visa. You should continue to pursue your studies using the resources you have available. If you need to extend your study permit, contact the International Office and speak with an Advisor.

    Email an International Advisor

  • How could OSAP be affected by a strike?

    It is not likely for OSAP to be impacted. In the unlikely event labour action interferes with the government’s ability to confirm enrolment with the colleges, there could be delays in receiving funding.

  • How could my Second Career status be affected by a strike?

    If training is interrupted for an indefinite period (i.e. strike), Employment Ontario will work with clients on a case by case basis to support their training needs.

    For information on the continuation of your basic living allowance from the Second Career program, if a strike happens, please contact your employment and training consultant or call the Employment Ontario Contact Centre at 1-800-387-5656.