OPSEU rallies at Queen’s Park last Thursday

Photo by Michelle Rowe-Jardine.
Students from Durham College march up and down Queen’s Park in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 2 2017. (Photo by Michelle Rowe-Jardine)

By Michelle Rowe-Jardine

Hundreds of faculty, students and other supporters rallied at Queen’s Park on Thursday, Nov. 2 as the Ontario college faculty strike marched to the end of its third week.

Featured speakers included Warren “Smokey” Thomas, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and NDP leader Andrea Horwath.  

Many of the speeches called for the same thing: equal pay for equal work.

Chris Buckley, the President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, took to the podium to call for an end to precarious work.

“I want to thank OPSEU members for drawing a line in the sand, not only for yourselves, but for the next generation of workers following behind you,” he said.

Currently, the faculty union is bargaining for more full-time positions for faculty and less reliance on contract work. Contract and part-time faculty are paid less than full-timers and have less job security.

Humber College currently has over 70 per cent contract faculty who have to reapply for their job every semester. They only get paid for hours spent in the classroom.

“What bothers me the most is that you have to go to the streets to earn respect, to earn job security, to earn stability,” Buckley said.

The College Employer Council bargains on behalf of the 24 Ontario Colleges. The Council said in a press release that the union’s demands in salary increases and staffing ratios would cost colleges over $250 million per year.

Bargaining between the two sides resumed the day of the rally for the first time since talks were halted on Oct. 16.


Photo by Michelle Rowe-Jardine.
A young girl adds her trumpet to the approving cheers, bells and whistles during NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s speech at Queen’s Park. (Photo by Michelle Rowe-Jardine.)

Negotiations may have restarted between the Council and the faculty union, but Humber professor Tyler Shipley said he isn’t optimistic.

“Experience tells me that they’re going to put something on the table that is not so different from what they’ve already given us,” he said.

Shipley has been a professor at Humber for five years, and has worked at other schools, including York University. He said while contract work is a problem at universities, colleges are the “front lines” of the issue.

“The strategy from the employer side, I believe, is to wait us out and have the students get really angry at us. But, having students support us means that the pressure should be falling to the employer,” he said.

Students came out to support faculty at Queen’s Park from as far away as Durham College.  Paramedic student Patricia Sawh-Dunnigan organized a trip to Toronto with some classmates to join the rally.  

Sawh-Dunnigan said they even wound up on the same bus with a lot of faculty from Durham.

“We’re paying for our education … and our instructors are going to provide that, however, they’re not getting a fair deal in any of this,” she said.

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