Thousands of striking faculty from around the province arrived at Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto for a solidarity rally over the issue of precarious work.
A strike came into effect when negotiations fell apart between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union sparking a strike on Oct 16.
However, the colleges and union representing faculty, librarians and counsellors at the provinces 24 public colleges returned to the bargaining table on Thursday morning.
“The fight for equal pay for equal work, to get rid of precarious jobs, to have more full-time jobs, that’s the exact right fight,” OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas said a statement.
“You’re at the pointy edge of that fight, and you’re making a difference for everybody.”
At the table, OPSEU had multiple sticking points including having at least 50% full time staff as some 70% of Ontario’s faculty work a short-term contracts with “sub-standard wages and no job security.”
“With Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, in committee this week, I’m calling on the government to recognize that, when it comes to precarious work, our colleges are the eye of the storm,” Mr Thomas said.
“Contract staff have been doing the sam great work as their full-time colleagues but they’ve been treated as second-class citizens in the workplace.”
A stage was set up facing the lawn in front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, where provincial parliamentarians legislate Ontario.
This rally follows a College Student Alliance rally that had a few hundred college students in attendance from the Greater Toronto Area.
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.