At 12:01a.m., the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) began their province-wide strike. Within the past month, OPSEU and the College Employer Council have been bouncing negotiations back and forth for new contract terms.
The union’s proposed contract terms include job security for increased full-time employment and advanced notice for the teaching assignments of the academic year. Faculty is asking for at least three weeks notice to allow time for course material preparation.
The union says the benefits that come from fighting for better work and contract terms will evidently prove to provide a better quality of education for students.
Thinking ahead for next 50 years of the college system
President of OPSEU Local 110, Darryl Bedford, says “it’s not a situation anyone wanted to be in” but that action needed to be taken after facing resistance from the College Employer Council.
“It’s not about the full-time faculty that are the top of the salary grid, this is about the 68% of Fanshawe faculty who are precariously employed. They don’t know from one semester to the next whether they’ll have work at the college or not.” Bedford says the union is thinking ahead for future generations, fighting to answer the question, “will they have the same opportunities that we have?”
Part-time faculty members face the struggles of uncertainty about employment each semester, and receive a short notice when there is availability.
Students taking action
Students province-wide are eager to know where the negotiations stand between both parties. Over 500,000 students are affected as a result of the strike, and some have began to take action.
A petition started by two Humber college students is demanding tuition refunds for each day missed in the academic year as a result of the strike. Almost 54,000 signatures have been collected to-date.
Bedford commends students speaking out and voices their concerns, “it seems to be the only thing that the college employer council understands, is money. Maybe if students demand their money back, that will bring the council back to the table and negotiating seriously.”
A win-win for faculty and students
OPSEU shares that if new contract terms are agreed upon, students can expect to see a significant increase of academic organization and awareness.
“There are also contract faculty who are seeking full-time work and they’re only finding part-time, but they have full-time lives to live. They have families to look after. So when faculty are feeling more secure in their positions, and then translate into support for their students. They’re able to spend that extra time out of class, they’re able to set their schedule, they’re able to spend that time preparing, and that’s what we need in the college system. We need some stability.”
Bedford says that since the contract faculty is representative of the majority, in order to do a good job, they need to be able to balance their college work with their personal lives.
“This is an inconvenience for everyone but we are fighting for quality education for our students. We are fighting for good full-time faculty jobs, [and] we need those here in London and our surrounding communities. So we don’t want to be on strike, but unfortunately that’s where we are. We are certainly ready to go back to the table whenever we get that phone call.”
Across Ontario, over 12,000 professors, instructors, counselors, and librarians are affected.