Faculty members arrive at the main Windsor campus at St. Clair College as the province-wide strike continues on November 8, 2017. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Union Applauds Move To Help College Students

The union representing striking college faculty is praising a plan by the province to help students.

As the strike enters its fifth week, Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, has directed all of Ontario’s 24 colleges to take the money they save saved as a result of the walkout, and place it into a fund to help students who have been affected financially. This includes students at St. Clair College, Fanshawe College and Lambton College.

J.P. Hornick, chairperson of the bargaining team for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), says the Liberal government is responding to a petition launched last week.

“Anything that will help students get through this difficult time is more than welcome, and we thank the minister for moving ahead with it,” says Hornick in a statement.

Half a million students across the province have been in limbo since the strike began October 16. Key issues are wages and job security for contract faculty, as well as more input in academic decisions.

OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas says since the province is trying to treat students fairly, the colleges should make more of an effort to treat faculty fairly.

“It’s important to remember that the fund the minister has announced is being paid for by faculty, not by the colleges,” says Thomas in a press release. “I can’t see why the colleges still refuse to bargain, still refuse to agree to no-cost items, and insist on clawing money out of the classroom through their demands for concessions.”

Faculty is being asked this week to vote on a proposal offered by the colleges last week, but rejected by the union bargaining team. The vote has been imposed by the Ontario Labour Relations Board in an effort to end the strike.

Matthews has promised to work with everyone in an effort to make the relief fund work.

“I will work with students and colleges starting immediately to develop the parameters of the fund,” says Matthews. “We need to work out the details together and we will do it quickly… I’m looking for the best ideas about how to make sure this reinvestment directly benefits students who have faced hardship.”