Beginning Tuesday at 9 am, striking Ontario college faculty members will cast their ballots in a vote that could end the labour impasse that has now entered its fifth week.

The voting period will run through Thursday to give 12,000 faculty members the opportunity to vote. The referendum comes after the College Employer Council (CEC) pulled an end-around on the OPSEU bargaining team by bypassing them completely and asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to force a vote on the CEC’s offer.

More than 500,000 students have now missed in excess of four full weeks of classes, and it will be closer to five by the time the voting is completed and counted.

The two main issues at the centre of the dispute for the faculty are the increase in precarious, part-time or contract work; and the lack of a voice in academic decision-making.

The colleges maintain that increasing full-time positions to the levels the faculty is seeking would lead to crippling financial burdens for the institutions.

With claims that misinformation is being spread on both sides of the dispute, Ontario colleges have launched a new website – collegevote.ca – to provide information for the 12,000 voting faculty.

Sonia Del Missier and Stephanie Ball, Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the Colleges’ Bargaining Team, say they addressed thousands of faculty, students, and parents during an audio webcast this morning.

The team says the call dealt directly with faculty questions that have come from the picket lines, phone calls, emails and social media. The call addressed faculty questions on:

· The colleges’ offer
· The union’s claim that the colleges’ offer does not contain agreed to items
· Salaries and benefits
· Partial-load faculty gains
· Returning to work and what happens to faculty wages
· Bill 148 implementation
· Academic Freedom
· Staffing ratios
· The Task Force on the future of Ontario colleges
· The reason the faculty vote is being held
· What an acceptance by the majority of faculty means
· What a rejection by the majority of faculty means