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. ■
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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