Updated: Mon, 01 Feb 2010 14:24:00 GMT | By THE CANADIAN PRESS, cp.org

OPSEU sets Feb. 11 strike deadline for Ontario's community colleges



TORONTO - The union for Ontario's community college teachers has set a Feb. 11 strike deadline in a move that would curtail classes for at least 200,000 full-time students.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says it would rather come up with an agreement through binding arbitration and avoid a strike, but says it will strike if "forced to" by the colleges.

The move comes after the union rejected a "final" offer from the colleges last week and refused to take it directly to teachers for a vote.

College management says the offer is better than previous ones because it shortens the contract to three years, instead of four, and offers a slightly higher salary increase.

Key issues for the union are workload, academic freedom and management's decision in November to impose its offer on the teachers without a vote.

About 57 per cent of the teachers who voted earlier this month gave OPSEU a strike mandate to back their demands, but those opposed have set up a website asking to vote on the deal.

A provincial mediator has been appointed to attempt to resolve the impasse without a strike, and Premier Dalton McGuinty has asked both sides to sit down and reach a negotiated contract settlement.

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