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What is the province-wide college strike all about?

Last Updated Oct 30, 2017 at 6:49 pm EST

Who is on strike?

More than 12,000 faculty and staff members at 24 colleges across Ontario. The workers are represented by the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU.)

How long have they been on strike?

Monday marked Day 15 of the strike. No new bargaining talks are currently scheduled. OPSEU says it is up to the College Employer Council to restart negotiations. OPSEU bargaining team chair JP Hornick says the union is ready and willing to get back to the negotiating table. “If the colleges approach the mediator, or us, and say they’re finally willing to start talking then we would be at that table in a heartbeat,” she said.

Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews says that the expectation is for both parties to come to a mutually agreeable solution.

How many students are affected?

More than 300,000 full-time and part-time students are impacted by the strike. Daytime classes at all colleges across the province have been cancelled. Some night classes are still taking place.

What are they striking over?

On its website, OPSEU highlights the following three “critical issues”:

50:50 ratio of full-time to contract faculty

This proposal:

  • establishes a ratio of full-time to non-full-time faculty that ensures stability and flexibility;
  • establishes the basis for standardized data collection with the assistance of the Ministry of Labour to ensure consistent and accurate staffing level information; and
  • ensures a realistic timeline to reach the target of a 50:50 ratio and reasonably distribute the cost.

Job security for partial-load faculty

This proposal:

  • enhances partial-load job security and requires the college to issue contracts three weeks in advance of the semester;
  • creates improved progression on the salary schedule and reflects all work done during academic year;
  • enhances seniority for partial-load faculty; and
  • clarifies the role of seniority in assigning work to partial-load faculty and improves language on equity and diversity in hiring.

Academic freedom

This proposal:

  • defines the specific faculty rights that academic freedom entails;
  • reflects contract language in effect in other Canadian colleges; and
  • affirms faculty ability to make academic decisions about their courses, research and professional activities.

 

Will students be refunded?

More than 45,000 people signed a petition calling for a tuition reimbursement for each day lost to a strike. Matthews refused to comment on the feasibility of reimbursing students, adding that she hoped for a timely resolution that would see students return to class.

Will the province intervene with legislation to end the strike?

When asked if back-to-work legislation was possible, Matthews said on Monday that while legislation was at the government’s disposal, “Right now we have no plans to legislate.”

With files from the Canadian Press and OPSEU.org