As of Monday morning, 12,000 faculty members at Ontario’s 24 public colleges are on strike. They include full-time and partial-load professors, librarians and counsellors. The strike comes after college employers rejected a final offer from faculty, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), on Sunday night. In 50 years, there have only been three times that faculty have gone on strike in Ontario: in 1984, 1989 and in 2006. Faculty are demanding a greater say in how colleges are run, as well as a reversal of increased contract positions – a cost-cutting measure being employed by administrations across the province.
Socialist Fightback Students lends its full support to college faculty on strike, and encourages our fellow students to do the same. A defeat for our professors, librarians and counsellors is a defeat for all of us – students and workers alike. As the old saying goes, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”
The issues, and why you should care
The major demands being raised by faculty are not directly pay-related. They are: to reverse the increase in contract positions, to provide job security for partial-load faculty, and to give greater say to faculty and students on how colleges are run. It was these demands, included in the final Sunday night offer, which were rejected by the employer.
A 2014 Report on Education in Ontario Colleges revealed that 64 per cent of college instructors are contract faculty, which includes partial-load, part-time, and sessional employees. These positions are often underpaid and offer no job security. Instructors are required to renew their contracts every semester, and can be dismissed after receiving a 30 day written notice. After the last collective agreement was signed in 2014, Seneca College in Toronto announced sudden plans to replace 140 partial-load positions with non-union positions. Contract faculty are left in a constant state of anxiety, fully aware that the same could happen to them any day. Many choose not to speak out for fear of retribution.
College students can relate. Many are themselves workers, or are soon to enter the workforce. Despite earning a diploma, many of them will find themselves in part-time or contract work to earn a living. The path to stable, full-time employment is no longer as easy to come by as it was in the past. Supporting college faculty, plenty of whom are in the same position, is the best way to voice our opposition to the rise of precarious work. A victory for the administration would only embolden other employers to do the same.
The union is also requesting a greater role for faculty and students in decision-making on campus. As of now, the majority of decisions are made by unelected administrators, including those decisions related to curriculum and grading. At George Brown College in Toronto, the school is run by a Board of Governors made up of 17 members, 12 of whom are appointed (and who cannot be faculty or a student), and only 4 of whom are elected. In a 2014 report by OPSEU, it was found that in the college system today, there was one administrator for every three full-time faculty. The ratio was 1:12 in the Ontario high school system. Decisions in our colleges should be made by those who work and study there, not by bureaucrats. Every student should offer their support for this proposal, which above all seeks to empower them and improve the overall quality of their education.
Administration will spare no effort in conveying its “sympathy” for students in the coming days. Our advice to students: don’t believe it! Isn’t it these same bureaucrats who continually raise our tuition fees as they take home bloated salaries? Since when are they our friends? The real purpose of their “sympathy” is obvious: to drive a wedge between students and faculty. We refuse to let them do so.
Socialist Fightback Students will be joining college faculty on the picket lines starting on Monday. We encourage every student to do the same. Only by doing so can we deliver a blow against precarious labour, bring democracy to our campuses, and help to bring our instructors, librarians and counsellors one step closer to victory. Their fight is our fight, and their victory is our victory.
Defend full-time, quality work!
For democratic control by faculty and students!
Students and workers, unite!
Victory to the college faculty!