By Kit Kolbegger
Traffic on Bay Street south of Wellesley Avenue was stopped Wednesday morning as thousands rallied in support of Ontario’s striking college faculty.
The crowd was full of flags from different unions, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the United Steelworkers.
RM Kennedy, vice-president of Centennial College’s faculty union, said everyone in the crowd had been affected by one of the key issues of the strike.
“This is not just a strike. This is a social movement against precarious labour,” Kennedy said.
Pam Johnson, an instructor at Humber College’s Lakeshore Campus, said contract faculty like herself have to apply for their jobs every three months.
“In a year’s time, it could mean applying for your job three times,” she said.
Johnson said she has worked at Humber College for almost twenty years.
“They tell me I’m doing a good job, but I still have to apply for it again,” she said.
The rally took place outside of MPP Deb Matthews’ office. Matthews is the Minister for Advanced Education and tweeted on Monday that that it’s up to the union and the colleges to resolve the strike.
Warren “Smokey” Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union, said he understood that the government was “reluctant to legislate” to intervene.
“We don’t like having strikes ended by legislation but there’s lots they could do,” he said. He said the government needed to tell the College Employer Council, “Get back to that bargaining table, and listen to the people who know how the colleges work.”
Thomas said union members needed to stay strong as the strike went on.
“I get phone calls about some of this stuff. My phone number’s actually on the website,” he said, in a nod to the College Employer Council removing their contact phone numbers from their website.
“I’ve had actually two calls, two calls criticizing. But I’ve had about 50 or 60 saying good for you, keep up the good fight.”
Celia Green, a second year Theatre Performance student at Humber College, said it wasn’t striking faculty she was angry at.
“Everyone’s pissed,” she said. “We’re mad that we can’t be in class but we also support our faculty and what they’re asking for. We’re mad at the colleges, not the teachers. That’s really who we’re mad at. It feels like they’re ignoring us in negotiating with the teachers or not negotiating.”
The strike began its tenth day on Wednesday morning, with no negotiations set to take place. Half a million students across Ontario have been affected, and over 12,000 faculty are currently striking.