The Ontario college strike, which has gone on for several weeks now, has left many students wondering what their academic year–when it ultimately reconvenes–will look like.
As for what’s happening, the College Employer Council recently called on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)—the union representing striking workers—to suspend the strike and re-start classes. The Labour Board announced that it’s set to hold a faculty vote on the employer offer—a vote the OPSEU isn’t on board with.
This vote is scheduled to take place from Tuesday, Nov. 14 to Thursday, Nov. 16 and OPSEU is advising its members to vote no and reject the colleges’ offer.
“The contract offer put forward by the College Employer Council on November 6 is a bad one for faculty – and the students we teach. It entrenches inequity and takes us backwards on academic freedom,” OPSEU wrote in a recent statement.
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OPSEU says the offer allows the colleges to continue to favour contract and non-full time employees with restriction, to avoid paying “equal pay for equal work” for contract faculty, decreasing the percentage of full-time jobs in colleges and more.
“The colleges have forced a vote on an offer that is filled with concessions and still does nothing to address academic freedom,” OPSEU says. “The best way for the colleges to reach a collective agreement is to negotiate, not to force a vote on an offer that has already been rejected by the faculty bargaining team. We will Vote NO because it will make the colleges stronger, better for students, and better for the next generation.
While none of this will likely satisfy worried students, those concerned about the financial impact of the strike might be happy to be reminded that the province is creating something of a “hardship fund” for students adversely affected by the disruption.
“…They [students] are worried about how to pay for unexpected costs like additional rent or canceling long-standing travel plans to be home with family,” said Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, in a statement. “They’ve told me they are stressed about when they will be able to complete their studies or if there will be any extra help when classes finally resume. That is why I am requiring that colleges establish a dedicated fund with all the savings from the strike.”
According to Matthews, the fund will be used to support students who have experienced financial hardships as a result of the strike.
Matthews said she “will work with students and colleges starting immediately to develop the parameters of the fund.”
“We need to work out the details together and we will do it quickly. I have just spoken with student leadership from the College Student Alliance and have asked them for their advice and for feedback from their membership. I’m looking for the best ideas about how to make sure this reinvestment directly benefits students who have faced hardship.”
We’ll keep you posted as more details emerge.