Hundreds attended a solidarity strike rally on Wednesday that took place outside the office of the provincial education ministry on Bay St.
Multiple speakers and a performer took to the back of a union provided pick up truck to speak to strikers, made up of picketers from colleges across Toronto.
After a deadline passed at 12:01 am on Oct 16, members of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union went on strike.
OPSEU, representing some 12,000 faculty, librarians and counselors from Ontario’s 24 public colleges, could not get the College Employers Council to agree to a reformed deal that included demands for more full-time staff, job security and say over academic programs.
The rally’s location was chosen specifically to be in front of Liberal Cabinet Minister Deb Matthews’ office, the Member of Provincial Parliament in charge of the post-secondary portfolio.
“It was important to bring the message of Fairness for Faculty to the doorsteps of minister Deb Matthews,” rally performer Mohammed Ali told the Post. Ali, the “socialist vocalist” rapped at the event in support of the union.
“The government is talking about Fairness in the lead up to their re-election efforts but they are providing very little fairness,” Ali said. The artist has been at several rally events across Toronto.
Humber student Paula Greenberg said it was important for her come support strikers at the rally as she understood the union demand of more full-time contracts for faculty.
“As a mature student, I understand the nature of precarious work,” Greenberg told the Post, explaining that when she returned to school she was disappointed with the the way contracts work.
“I support my faculty because they deserve to be treated fairly and given fair opportunities.”
Bay St south of Wellelsey St was shut down for the rally from around 11 am to just before noon. Strikers dispersed afterwards, despite a rally being planned for afterwards on the front lawn of Queen’s Park.
A small crowd of around 30 showed up to the provincial parliament, holding emphatic speeches and continuing some the energy from the rally.
CBC News reported on Monday that Employers Council head Don Sinclair said that no new talks were scheduled and that he doesn’t think the strike will end anytime soon.
Negotiating chair JP Hornick, present at the Bay St rally as a speaker, said that the strike will go on until there is a return to the bargaining table in regards to the new offers.
The colleges are still offering the deal on the table the union rejected on Oct 15, leading to the strike.
The union wants the Council to meet its demands, or least heavily consider them in coming to the table, calling upon Matthews and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to encourage the colleges to come to the table open to reform.
However, OPSEU is cautious as it does not want “back-to-work legislation” where Queen’s Park forces faculty back to work with the Council’s terms.
A solidarity rally is planned for next Thursday in front of Queen’s Park if the strike is still ongoing, with attendees expected from all 24 colleges.
One faculty member told the Post attendance was low at Bay St, as all picketing faculty from Toronto were to come to the rally.
However, next Thursday, the rally will draw on the 12,000 members on strike provincially.
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.
Second on the pamphlet is 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.
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.
Humber student Paula Greenberg told the Post last week 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.
The fourth pamphlet point is that academic decisions require faculty input.
OPSEU local board executive Miles Magner called on a “Senate or some way to craft academic work.”
OPSEU supporter Mohammed Ali has 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 counselors 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.”
More details to follow. Image 1 of the rally from The GH Post. ■
Arbitration awarded in Ontario college faculty dispute
Arbitrator William Kaplan handed down an award on Wednesday, announcing binding arbitration that puts an end to the dispute between Ontario’s 24 public colleges and the union that represents faculty, librarians and counselors.
The college faculty union described a major win in regards to “academic freedom”, which will allow faculty to speak freely without fear of reprisal.
The award also includes improved job security for partial-load and full-time faculty, according to a statement from the union.
A new government-run task force will also be put in place to carry out recommendations regarding “faculty complement, precarious work, college funding, student success, and governance issues.
Collective bargaining started for a new agreement between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union in July, but failed to come to an agreement by 12:01 a.m. deadline on Oct. 16, resulting in a strike by the union.
“Today’s award from arbitrator William Kaplan could have been bargained between the colleges and faculty a long time ago,” said JP Hornick, chair of union bargaining team.
“With any reasonable amount of cooperation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay.”
“Throughout bargaining, which began in July, the College Employer Council had ample opportunity to bargain a deal,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a statement.
Details for the arbitration agreement were posted online on the College Employer Council’s website.
An OPSEU press conference following the arbitration award was positive in regards to what was accomplished, but made clear that further improvements for precarious work and other issues still have happen.
When asked whether the strike process was “worth it”, OPSEU negotiator Nicole Zwiers said “a strike is always so costly”, however she explained that for the union there was “there was no other option”.
Zwiers hosted the conference with OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas.
“The colleges are Crown agencies and the government could have – and should have – stepped in and forced them to bargain,” Thomas said regarding the strike.
“It is too late to prevent the strike, but it is not too late for the government to step in and change the leadership on the Council.”
The College Student Alliance made clear in a tweet that if it’s previous demand of binding arbitration on Nov. 7 was agreed to by the two sides, a bargain could have been struck “weeks ago”.
“It’s both disappointing [and] frustrating students were ignored.”
The University of Guelph-Humber was shut down on Oct. 16 due to Humber College faculty that teach at the university and the campus being behind a picket line, with the administration saying that, without college faculty, they could not offer programs in full.
University courses resumed on Oct. 30 via a digital format, angering many students who disagreed with the way Guelph-Humber operated during the strike.
University courses returned to campus a month ago, with college courses returning with the rest of the province the day after on Nov. 21.
More details to follow. Please refresh for the latest.
Binding arbitration expected in college dispute
Binding arbitration is expected Wednesday morning in the dispute between the 24 public colleges and the union representing faculty, librarians and counselors.
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union will be holding a press conference at 11:45 a.m. that can be live streamed via their official Facebook page.
More details to follow. The Post will be covering the announcement online. Image 1 from previous files. Follow our Twitter here. ■
Ontario college arbitration to be awarded this week
The union representing faculty that went on strike earlier this fall and negotiators for Ontario’s 24 public colleges released a joint statement on Sunday saying that binding arbitration occurred with an award release this week.
“The arbitrator’s award will form the new collective agreement for Ontario college faculty,” reads the statement released by the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union and the College Employer Council.
The provincially-appointed arbitrator has imposed a media blackout until the award is released, and thus, the details of of the binding arbitration become clear.
OPSEU and the colleges “participated in mediation from [Dec.] 14 through [Dec.] 16.”
The arbitration followed back-to-work legislation that was passed by Queen’s Park on Nov. 19 of this year.
The legislation came after a dramatic forced vote requested by the College Employer Council where a majority of the 12,000 striking faculty voted no to agreeing with the a final offer from the colleges with the encouragement of OPSEU.
The strike launched on Oct. 16 when a midnight deadline could not be reached for a collective bargaining agreement between the colleges and the union.
For five weeks, some full and part-time college students across the province were out of classrooms and faculty, librarians and counselors were on the streets in mass picket lines.
The University of Guelph-Humber had university courses shut down for two weeks before they resumed online in a digital format, much to general student disappointment.
University classes returned to the classroom on Nov. 20 and college courses resumed the day after.
More details to follow. Image 1 of picketing faculty from The Globe and Mail. ■
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