A planned College Student Alliance rally took place in front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario at Queen’s Park with over a hundred attendees on Wednesday afternoon.
The “students first” rally was in support of ending the college union strike and getting students back on campus. The CSA called on both sides not to use students as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table.
The CSA’s official stance is one of neutrality, taking neither side in the college employment dispute.
Bargaining between Ontario’s 24 public colleges, represented by the College Employer Council, and the faculty’s Ontario Public Sector Employees Union fell apart last month resulting in a strike starting on Oct 16.
However, news broke hours before the rally that the Council and OPSEU are set to return to the bargaining table on Thursday morning.
Several speakers engaged gathered students and addressed news cameras during the rally.
Deborah Matthews, the provincial Liberal Party cabinet minister in charge of the post-secondary portfolio, took to the podium in support of students.
Matthews said Queen’s Park was sympathetic of the strike’s consequences on college students and thanked those in attendance for their leadership and “for your voices.”
However, many students at the rally were critical of the government, saying they weren’t caring for the 500,000 full and part-time students across the province now losing out on tuition, and some paying for housing without education.
“Governments are supposed to be proactive not reactive,” mature college student Jeff Hollick told the Post.
Hollick and a friend were sporting signs reading “we can’t learn if you can’t agree” that were being held by many at the rally.
Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner said that his party put students first.
Mr Schreiner told the Post that the “root cause of the strike is the fact that Ontario has the lowest per capita funding for colleges of any province.”
“The Liberals have failed to support college students and faculty.”
Buses from several colleges drove in from the Greater Toronto Area, but the rally did not appear to be as well-attended as the Facebook event page seemed to suggest it would be.
However, event organizers said that many student associations that couldn’t make it to Queen’s Park were holding their own rallies in support across Ontario.
Ignite represents at rally
Ignite President Maja Jocson and two other vice president’s were in attendance at the CSA rally in front of Queen’s Park, engaging in the chanting and holding signs.
A banner with the official Ignite student life branding on it and the event hashtag “#StudentsFirst” scrawled out in marker under the logo was held up for majority of the rally.
Ignite’s stance is the same as the College Student Alliance’s: neutrality.
However, some college faculty strikers fear this could lead to back-to-work legislation which would force picketing faculty, librarians and counsellors to return to their jobs without the colleges having to meet their demands.
Humber College professor Tyler Shipley told the Post previous to Wednesday that “if the rally isn’t careful to express support for faculty, it will inevitably be used by the employer and/or province as a justification for back-to-work legislation to end the strike.”
Shipley said Wednesday that “it remains to be seen whether this is an effort in good faith or just a ploy to appear better to the media” in regards to the College Employer Council and faculty union’s return to the bargaining table.
NDP legislator supports students, OPSEU
New Democratic Party legislator Peggy Sattler told gathered college students that her provincial party had supported students long before the strike.
The provincial member of parliament encouraged students to “continue your advocacy.”
However, Sattler told the Post that the NDP “believe the concerns that have been identified by OPSEU are legitimate concerns and should be addressed.”
“These are real issues that need to be discussed, whether through the bargaining process or through another form,” Sattler said.
The MPP did not expand on what an alternative form to the bargaining process would be but said her party was against back-to-work legislation.
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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