Eli Ridder | Report
For the first time ever, an agreement was made between the union representing part-time support workers and the colleges they work for across the province, and the Humber Et Cetera on Tuesday called on students to support the union.
The Ontario Public Employees Service Union — the same organization that represents college full-time faculty and staff and went on strike province-wide in the fall of 2017 — formally represents the part-time employees after a deal was struck on Feb. 22.
“History has been made,” OPSEU President Smokey Thomas said at the time, explaining that the union “fought for years for the legislated right to join a union. We won that fight and now these workers have an excellent first contract to show for it.”
The Et Cetera wrote that recent government changes to education “have placed students in a precarious position, as a 10 per cent reduction in tuition fees and possible cuts to student fees is going to hurt campus life.”
“Faculty and support staff are already overworked. There are part-time employees who put in unpaid hours because they understand the responsibilities they have to students.”
The part-time contract includes student workers on campus.
Et Cetera cites Christopher Millado, a member of the bargaining team, who says that student support is important, explaining that “representation from students working part-time is crucial, both in ensuring workplace rights are upheld and as a source of strength for the union.”
This fall, the Ontario Student Assistance Program will no longer have as many grants available to students and tuition will be cut by 10 per cent.
Low-income students — about 200,000 of them — who used to have 100 per cent grant-based tuition that they would not have to pay back, will now have to take out some loans on top of grants, effectively slashing the growing support from the last administration for universal free tuition.
Also coming into play for the September semester are optional student fees through the Student Choice Initiative that will allow students to opt out of funding some on-campus student unions, organizations and clubs — a move the affected groups say threaten their existence.
Humber Et Cetera calls the cuts “unnecessary”, saying that part-time student workers, through their participation in OPSEU, can “add a voice to the response to the austerity promised by the provincial government.”
The IGNITE student union representing Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber have also voiced their opposition to the government education cuts at a rally and by delivering postcards signed by students to Queen’s Park.
Image of OPSEU rally from files.