Picket lines go up at all Ontario colleges as classes are cancelled and students demand refunds for each day of the strike
Updated Oct. 16 at 5:50 p.m. with audio and video coverage.
Over 12,000 college faculty members at all 24 colleges in Ontario hit the picket lines Monday morning as the union said the College Employer Council rejected their final offer.
The union’s last offer included demands that there be a 50-50 ratio of full-time to part-time faculty, better job security for partial load faculty and academic freedom for faculty.
“Unfortunately, Council refused to agree on even the no-cost items, such as longer contracts for contract faculty and academic freedom,” said JP Hornick, the chair of the union bargaining team in a statement. “This leaves us with no choice but to withdraw our services until such time as our employer is ready to negotiate seriously.”
Listen to JP Hornick from OPSEU talk about the Ontario college faculty strike
The College Employer Council’s last offer included a 7.75 per cent raise over four years, new salary caps for faculty, as well as “improved conversion of contract faculty to full-time positions, a plan to respond to Bill 148 when it becomes law, more faculty autonomy over personal workloads (and) enhanced benefits.”
“This strike is completely unnecessary and unfair to hundreds of thousands of students.” said Sonia Del Missier in a release from the College Employer Council. “We should have had a deal based on our final offer. It is comparable to, or better than, recent public-sector settlements with teachers, college support staff, hospital professionals, and Ontario public servants – most of which were negotiated by OPSEU.”
“The strike is not about money at all,” said Tom Tomassi, faculty union president at George Brown College (GBC). “It’s about us creating an environment where we can teach the students the way the students should be taught.”
GBC has cancelled all full-time classes for the duration of the strike and said that all exams will be rescheduled for after the strike. Continuing education classes will continue in the evening and weekends.
“I hope that the strike will be over soon,” said GBC nursing professor Paul Petrie. “I’d like to see some of our demands being met, there are a lot of people who are partial load who don’t get paid for all the work that they do.”
Students are concerned with what will happen to their learning without faculty there to teach them.
“We are actually in the middle of the semester so really we are worried about what’s going to happen to us,” said GBC accounting student Mahmoud Fanug.
Over 47,000 people have signed a petition calling for a refund of tuition money students have already paid for each day the strike lasts.
“We, the students, want to be in school and we want to learn. We are paying for it,” reads the petition. “If the two bargaining teams do not consider our educational and employment prospects as motive enough to reach an agreement, then perhaps a justifiable hit to the colleges’ bottom line will.”
Aaron Von Hoffen, a hospitality and tourism student at GBC, joined his teachers on the picket line at St. James campus Monday with a container of fresh coffee for them.
“I think ultimately all the students pay to be in school so it’s not our fault, and it’s not the teachers’ fault, that we can’t be in the classroom,” he said. “So getting back in the classroom is important and we’re just trying to show support however we can.”
“I have been incredibly impressed with the amount of support and solidarity that students are showing for the faculty’s issues,” said Hornick. “But also for the students who are organizing around the tuition reimbursements and things like that, that’s amazing work and I wholeheartedly support that.”
College students in Ontario have never lost a semester due to a strike, but that is still a concern of the College Student Alliance (CSA) who represents 13 student associations in Ontario.
“Lost class time, especially a lost semester, can result in delayed graduation,” said Joel Willett, the president of the CSA in a statement. “Whether a student is in their first semester or their last, they’re going to feel the severity of this strike.”
The Student Association of George Brown College , which funds The Dialog, posted on their webpage that their programs and services “would continue to operate for the benefit of students.” A spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
The last college faculty strike in Ontario was in 2006 and lasted 18 days.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the union wanted the creation of academic senates at colleges. This demand was dropped in the union’s last offer. The Dialog regrets the error.