Dear Ontario College Students,
We have tried. From the beginning of contract negotiations in July 2017, we (faculty, librarians, and counsellors) came to the bargaining table with integrity, critical thinking, creative solutions, a willingness to engage in collective problem-solving, a solid commitment to social justice, and a passion for the betterment of education...many of the same concepts we teach to you in college education to prepare you as valuable contributors to a just society.
The College Employer Council (CEC) has not. From the beginning, the CEC tabled an unacceptable, concession-laden “Final Offer” that will have devastating consequences for the college education system – and it was non-negotiable. Their unwillingness to bargain in good faith forced us to utilize our ability to strike to get negotiations started, but to no avail.
We have tried. We went on strike to stand up for quality education (including collegial governance) and fair employment in Ontario colleges. We have been fighting for the future of 500,000 college students in Ontario and for the part-time instructors suffering the effects of precarious work. We are pushing back against the trend to marginalize workers in Ontario.
The CEC has not. They want to extend precarious part-time employment practices that diminish the quality of college education and they refuse to allow faculty input into curriculum development for the benefit of students and program quality. They also want to add unlimited overtime and the ability to contract out full time work, actually ridding the few full time faculty of future job security and decent working conditions.
We have tried. We have been willing to go without income and endure personal hardship to stand strong in our commitment to students and quality education/employment for the next generation. All of our press releases, media interviews, and strike bulletins have been truthful, informative and fair. You can read them yourselves at https://opseu.org/college-faculty-strike-information-2017.
The CEC has not. They continue to collect their exorbitant salaries and have further squandered tax payers’ money by hiring an expensive consulting firm as their spin doctor to spread their deceptions and mistruths in their one-sided communications, sent to all students and posted by management on college websites.
We have tried. We waited almost 2 weeks into the strike for the CEC to return to the negotiating table. Naïvely, we were hopeful that the CEC was finally ready to bargain in good faith and work toward a prompt resolution so that we could get back to the classroom and to our students. We continued to make significant concessions in all of our major issues and we thought we were very close to an agreement which would have ended the strike on Nov 6th.
The CEC has not. Instead, the CEC walked away from the table, dismantling progress by abruptly requesting a forced “Final Offer” vote that the Labour Board has set up for Nov 14 – 16th, further extending the strike. They could have called this vote on October 16 when the strike began, but did not. They are bullying, not bargaining. They have single-handedly stalled negotiations and have put the semester at risk for all students.
We have tried. We care deeply about students and the quality of college education in Ontario. We have been steadfastly and consistently committed to seeking a prompt resolution to get students back to school. It has never been about money for us. Full time faculty have decent salaries, good benefits, and job security (for now). The principles of quality education and future job security that we are standing up for are far more important.
The CEC has not. They have deceivingly tried to make this about money. So let’s talk money. Ontario’s college system is among the lowest funded in Canada on a per-student basis. The colleges have posted a $188 million surplus over the past year alone. The colleges have saved millions of dollars in salaries during the strike to date. Their actions show a complete disregard for tuition-paying students and their education. Students deserve tuition refund – especially because the CEC could have bargained in good faith in July and August, and they could have called the forced vote at the beginning of the strike and did not.
We have tried. And we will continue to. We are not the enemy that the CEC is unfairly trying to make us out to be. We are your ADVOCATES, fighting for quality education and fair employment practices in a just society – for your future. We wanted the strike to end on Nov 6th and we wanted to return to the classroom that week. We continue to ask the CEC to return to the negotiating table while we await the forced vote results on Nov 16th. We will stay strong for your futures and, in doing so, we MUST REJECT this oppressive final offer – or all of this will have been for nothing.
The CEC has not. They have maintained the unacceptable, inflexible “Final Offer” similar to what they started with way back in July, which is oppressive and draconian. What’s worse is that the Provincial Government (namely Kathleen Wynne and Deb Matthews) have stood by idly and done nothing to move things forward. Together, the CEC and the Provincial Government have demonstrated a clear disregard for students as their actions (and lack thereof) have prompted and prolonged the strike, and have now put your semester, your education, and your futures in serious jeopardy.
I hope this is helpful in your understanding of the issues. I am so genuinely sorry that students have experienced the adverse effects of this important labour dispute. We can only hope that you will be inspired to be change-makers in the world that awaits you – to do as we are doing – to push back against oppressive employers that will deny you a full time job, with benefits, and decent work conditions. If we can take on this fight for a just economic society, so should you. You deserve it. Fight for it!
Professor, Sheridan College
P.S. – those of you who chose Sheridan are among the fortunate. We are the “poster” College for all others in Ontario. We have a Senate, in which faculty have majority input into curriculum development and, we are at roughly a 40% ratio of full time faculty. We just need it embedded into the Collective Agreement, so that all colleges in Ontario can experience the same – and so that we can hold onto it at Sheridan.