By Mick Sweetman
Students are starting school this year in colleges across Ontario as the union representing faculty at the 24 colleges is drawing towards the deadline for a negotiated settlement with Colleges Ontario.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is the union representing more than 10,000 faculty members at colleges across Ontario. Faculty members include counsellors, instructors, professors and librarians.
On Sept. 10 union members will be voting to give the union a mandate to strike.
“The colleges are running out of time,” says Carolyn Gaunt, the faculty bargaining team co-chair. “They have had two and a half months to negotiate, and they still haven’t addressed our key issues. What are they waiting for?”
According to the union, key issues in negotiations are better treatment of partial-load faculty, academic freedom so that teachers rather than management determine how courses are delivered, and an updating of the workload formula to address increased online learning.
This uncertainty is causing a lot of stress for students who don’t know if the classes they’ve enrolled in are going to be disrupted by a labour action in September.
Last year, college students saw school start in chaos as support staff workers went on strike for the first time in 32 years.
The support staff workers, were on strike for 18 days as the colleges played hardball.
However, one thing that the college administrations seem to forget is that the core value of post-secondary education, and particularly that of college, isn’t in “learning outcomes” or “return on investment” or other ridiculous buzzwords that are flying around in self-serving government reports.
No, the real value for students is in the quality of education that they can get in college.
There are no magic shortcuts for producing high-quality education for students. The only way students get quality post-secondary education is if they have knowledgeable, highly-trained teachers who have time to give students the kind of personal instruction that ensures they can grasp the concepts being taught.
Instructors need small class sizes—and we’re talking about in real brick-and-mortar classrooms not isolating online courses.
They need job security, not precarious contract-to-contract classes where they don’t know what, or if, they’re teaching next semester.
In these negotiations leading up to a possible strike or lockout they need our support. Let’s let them know that we support our faculty and we’re in this together for accessible high-quality education.