College union strikers will be picketing and holding a solidarity rally on Wednesday in front of the office of a Liberal Party cabinet minister in downtown Toronto.
The union wants to get the College Employer Council back to the bargaining table to find a solution to the strike after negotiations between the Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union fell through on Oct 16.
Member of Provincial Parliament Deb Matthews, in charge of the post-secondary portfolio, runs the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development on 900 Bay St where the rally will be held.
Matthews recently tweeted that an end to the strike can be found “at the bargaining table.”
Like other solidarity rallies across the province in the last week, there will be speakers and a performer.
According to the Facebook event page, the following speakers and performer will be present:
- OPSEU President Warren Thomas
- College Faculty Bargaining Team Chair JP Hornick
- Contract faculty speakers from the GTA
- Pam Frache, Ontario Coordinator for Fight for $15 and Fairness
- Mohammad Ali, the “Socialist Vocalist”
Union members from across the Greater Toronto Area will be largely leaving their home school picket lines to converge on Bay St starting at 7:30 am, with the rally getting underway at 11 am.
The rally is public and described as “kid-friendly.”
Ali, or the “Socialist Vocalist” has been present at several union rallies, rapping lyrics he wrote in support of those picketing.
The Post spoke to Ali last week after a rally at the Humber Lakeshore campus where he energized the crowd into chanting and even rapping along with him.
For now, there appears to be no sign of a return to the bargaining table as 24 public colleges across Ontario are on strike, also shutting down Guelph-Humber. Some 500,000 full- and part-time students are currently without classes.
What are the union demands?
According to a pamphlet made by two college librarians, there are five reasons faculty are on strike.
The first bullet point is the headline “we need more full-time faculty”, the top sticking point for a majority of union members the Post has questioned. The union says full-time faculty numbers are decreasing while the student population increases year-to-year.
Likely the biggest issue raised during Friday’s rally, and second on the pamphlet, was that contract faculty members need job security.
Those on contract need to re-apply every semester to continue to hold a job, and a majority of college faculty are on this system.
Rally MC Johnson said that she has been a contract faculty for 18 years, with others even longer. This was met with boo’s and jeers.
Number three on the list is equal work deserving equal pay. Faculty that aren’t full time are not being paid for the time they spend preparing for courses, marking academic submissions and out-of-class support.
Paula Greenberg told the Post at the rally that many teachers in her Child and Youth Services program at Humber College worked in their field as well as teaching, as they were not employed full-time.
“Quality of life for my teachers is important because it effects my education,” Greenberg explained.
She said with part-time faculty they didn’t have enough time to properly “address questions, meet students outside of class and explain lectures”, causing both the teacher and the student stress.
Local union executive board member Myles Magner spoke on the fourth pamphlet point, saying that academic decisions require faculty input.
Magner called on a “Senate or some way to craft academic work.”
Mohammed Ali had also touched on that, saying that he had seen success at Ryerson where both faculty and students had input on their academic content.
The reason for why Ontario college faculty are on strike is that the ratio between counsellors and students need to be balanced for the sake of the students.
Strikers say the college administrations are now “moving to outsource” the work of counsellors, which OPSEU says gives “less accessibility to adequate and meaningful mental health coverage for students.”
Andrea Babbington of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council told those gathered that she applauded their courage in “standing up to the boss.”
Babbington said the Ontario Federation of Labour supported the strikers in their fight against the “exploitation of the worker” and encouraged the masses to “keep up the fight, sisters and brothers!”
“We are with youth community is with you, the students are with you!”
More details to follow. Image 1 of picketers from the Facebook event page for the Wednesday solidarity rally.