Students get a mid-semester vacation as 12,000 college faculty hit the picket line
OSHAWA -- The strike the province of Ontario has been in anticipation about got the green light this past weekend to hold up its picket signs, and the first day set the tone for how 24 public colleges will handle themselves.
Beginning around 7 a.m., on Oct. 16, at the Durham College (DC) Oshawa campus, the striking faculty met up at a portable stationed at the intersection of Founders Gate and Simcoe Street, and shortly after, the group separated to block the three entrances to campus.
Protestors walked in circles holding picket signs preventing students and staff at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) from entering the campus.
Cars were stopped in their tracks, and some faculty walked over to greet the drivers, handing out pamphlets explaining why they are striking.
Approximately every two minutes, the line piles up, and the striking teachers would part to let the cars drive through.
The way the protest is organized on this campus, for the moment, the first shift will go from 7-11 a.m., then the next shift would pick up immediately and run until 3 p.m., the last shift will join that shift for their last hour and stay from 2-6 p.m.
The weather was not in their favour on the first day. The teachers had to stand outside in 11-degree weather, having to bundle up with coats and gloves.
DC teacher Deb Tsagris, however, didn’t mind the cold, “I like walking, so I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been feeling energized.”
To be expected, there was some annoyance for the drivers affected by this protest.
Many honked while others decide to U-turn if they could. Some drivers even dared to drive on the other side of the road to get through the protest line instead of waiting.
This caused Commencement Drive to put up pylons to stop these cars from doing so. The drivers of these cars may be charged, and everyone driving through is on camera.
A few years back, a UOIT strike was on the horizon, but it was resolved at the last minute.
The last official strike that took place at DC was more than a decade ago, in 2006, when the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) asked for more teachers, smaller classes and more faculty time with students.
That one took three weeks and an incident ended up killing a Centennial College teacher.
This strike was inspired after the College Employer Council denied the final proposal OPSEU put forward last minute, which focused on the problem of there being too many part-time workers and unfair pay.
The proposition involved these main goals:
Equal wage between full-time faculty and contract faculty, where part-time faculty have a lower wage.
According to Nicole Zwiers the President of OPSEU local 354 bargaining team, “I think that philosophically, they won’t see what is to be seen…we brought to them the evidence we have, we brought to them the real stories of what’s happening in the classroom that indicate we need full time faculty for consistency and stability, and they’re refusing to go where we want them to go.”
When asked if having an equal ratio of part-time and full-time faculty would be costly, Zwiers said, “There are a couple of cost items. For example, asking there would be a faculty compliment of 50 per cent full-time faculty to non-full time is an increase, because right now we have over 70 per cent of those who are teaching our [students], so certainly paying someone full-time wages is more. We say it’s worth it [because] it’s quality education and the quality of our students, but also beyond that, [an] issue is, how do you manage all those contract faculty? You have to hire a lot of administrators.”
“We have reduced a lot of our negotiation that we wanted, including money. [For example, we wanted a raise] at nine per cent and now we are down to 6 per cent over a three-year deal,” said Paul Wraight, a Durham College professor.
“So we’re way behind in the money. The government said [college teachers] should be between high school teachers and professors in university and we aren’t.”
Wraight was also a part of two of the strikes that have taken place at Durham College.
This is the fourth strike at DC in its 50-year history.