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Student FAQ on Work To Rule

Work-to-rule and Bargaining FAQ for Fanshawe College Students

Updated March 10, 2022

Dear Students,

Here are some FAQs regarding the contract negotiations between college faculty and the employer organization they negotiate with, the College Employer Council (CEC).

What are contract negotiations?

Ontario college professors, librarians and counsellors (faculty) are unionized and represented by OPSEU. Our work is guided by a collective agreement, a contract negotiated and agreed to between the faculty and our employers, represented by the College Employer Council.

The current contract expired in September 2021; both sides have been meeting to negotiate a new contract since July 2021.

Aren’t contract negotiations always about money?

At times, salary is an important point to be settled during union-employer negotiations, but not this time.

College faculty cannot bargain for increased salary as we are limited to a 1% increase in salary because of Bill 124. Bill 124 is legislation passed by the Ontario government limiting salary increases to 1% for many public servants (including college faculty, nurses, police officers and more).

Why wasn’t a new contract agreed upon by September 2021?

Negotiations did not go well over the summer. Agreement about updated contract terms was not reached.

So, are college faculty teaching without a contract?  

No. The CEC imposed new contract terms in December 2021, something they are allowed to do by the law the governs Ontario colleges. So, professors are working under imposed contract terms set solely by the CEC. Professors had no say in these terms.

Just to be clear, it is abnormal for a collective agreement to be imposed by one side in negotiations. Normally, both sides have equal power and say when building a new collective agreement. That’s why it’s called “bargaining” or “negotiations” when union and management representatives meet to craft a new, updated collective agreement.

A union contract is called a “collective agreement” for a reason: a union contract is supposed to be agreed upon collectively by both sides.

What’s this I hear about a strike vote in December? Did professors vote yes?

There was a vote in December 2021 asking the union members/college faculty to vote on whether they accepted the imposed contract or not. The majority of faculty voted against the imposed contract.

Through this majority vote to reject, college faculty gave the College Bargaining Team a “strike mandate.” This means that the bargaining team can engage in labour action, which can include a work slowdown, intermittent or full strike, or work-to-rule.

Since the December 2021 rejection of the imposed contract, Ontario college faculty have been engaged in a WORK-TO-RULE labour action.

What is “Work-to-Rule”?

Work-to-rule is a labour action where unionized workers continue to work at their jobs, but work only to the letter of their contracts. They do not do any volunteer work or activities that are outside of their contract.

For instance, under work-to-rule faculty will not work overtime grading on weekends or help run a college Open House event because this is volunteer work.

The purpose of this labour action is to pressure College management and the CEC to end the impasse. The CEC should return to proper bargaining at the table or agree to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration agreement is when a mediator acceptable to both sides in a negotiation decides the final outcome.

The faculty bargaining team would welcome the CEC back to the negotiating table or accept the outcomes of a binding arbitration agreement.

How does work-to-rule affect me as a student?

For almost everyone, these past two years have been unprecedented and difficult. College faculty, students, and their families have struggled with the global pandemic, online learning, and many other stressors.

College faculty did not want to add additional stress or harm students with their labour action. That’s why they didn’t go on strike in December 2021 when that was an option. Students are still learning and progressing, and faculty are still teaching and counselling.

The work-to-rule campaign seeks to exert pressure on college operations while lessening impact on students. Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the work-to-rule campaign had faculty not answering emails after hours, not working past their contracted hours, and not volunteering their time by working to the letter of their contracts. Faculty have also moved some or all of their materials off the college learning system, while still allowing students to access them.

Phase 3 of the work-to-rule campaign started March 2, 2022. Now, on top of the previous work-to-rule actions, moving forward grades will not be entered into the FOL gradebook, or will only be there temporarily. Grades will still be available to students through quizzes, the submission folders, notifications, or email. Final grades will be submitted to college management outside of FOL.

Will classes run as scheduled under Work-to-Rule?

Yes. Talk to your professors about your concerns.  It’s important for faculty and students to communicate at this time.

What are college faculty fighting for?

Here are some of the issues professors are working to address in our next Collective Agreement:

  • 72% of Fanshawe professors are not full-time faculty—they are on short-term contracts and must apply for their jobs every semester. They are also paid much less. The bargaining team is trying to gain more stability, fairness, and pay equity for the professors who represent the majority, both at Fanshawe and in Ontario.
  • Professors are given a maximum of 5.5 minutes per student weekly for grading. Faculty are asking for an increase to 7 minutes for grading and feedback on student assignments.
  • Moving classes online has created much larger workloads for everyone. Additional prep time is necessary to successfully prepare classes with an online component.
  • Management wants to contract out professor, counsellor, and librarian work to private corporations (such as the deal Fanshawe has with ILAC, a private college in Toronto), and the bargaining team is trying to stop this.

These are some of the major issues that the college team is trying to improve. Faculty wants to maintain your college system and strengthen it for the future.

Faculty teaching conditions are student’s learning conditions.

Why won’t the Colleges agree to binding interest arbitration or continue to negotiate?

We don’t know, to be honest.  The faculty bargaining team has offered to return to negotiations or refer all these issues under dispute to binding interest arbitration.

What college management through the College Employer Council is doing is disruptive and stressful for all students and faculty, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

This is why it’s important for students to make their voices heard and to ask the Colleges about these things directly.

What can I do to help bring an end to the dispute?

You can make it clear that you would like management to resolve all this bargaining stuff without any disruption.  The College presidents direct the CEC, so you can let Fanshawe College President Peter Devlin know how you feel by writing him directly.

Send a form letter to your College president here:

You can also write an email to President Devlin at this address: