OPSEU leaders speak out at St. Clair College rally
Striking faculty members at St. Clair College in Windsor and Chatham are getting support from the union’s leaders.
Members of other unions, politicians and senior leaders with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union joined the rally Friday to show solidarity.
“I think the semester is close to being in jeopardy, right now,” says OPSEU bargaining committee chair J.P. Hornick.
The labour dispute has seen classes cancelled at Ontario's 24 colleges, affecting about half a million full-time and part-time students including more than 10,000 at St. Clair College.
Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said last week that the province needs to let the collective bargaining system work.
But OPSEU Ontario President Warren “Smokey” Thomas says the rally is meant to pressure the government to kick start negotiations.
“We're just trying to pressure the government into exerting some influence,” says Thomas.
More than 330 staff at St. Clair in Windsor and Chatham are on strike.
The strike involving more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians across Ontario began on Oct. 15, after the two sides couldn't resolve their differences by a deadline of 12:01 a.m. the next day.
The union wants an even split between full-time and contract faculty positions, but the colleges have said that would add more than $250 million costs each year.
Hornick adds they also want a share in decision-making.
“In post-secondary systems across Canada, faculty have the ability to make the decisions in their classroom, grading, evaluation methods, the resources you use. But the college faculty don't, the chairs or the deans can overturn decisions” says Hornick.
St. Clair spokesperson John Fairley says decisions about when to go back to the table are made by the council in Toronto. He adds all the local staff can do is start planning for when the strike ends, and that may include writing exams on weekends.
Students meantime are feeling like they are caught in the middle.
Sarah Malott is a first year nursing student at St. Clair College. She wants both sides to “just figure it out.”
“They've never given us a difficult time crossing the picket line but it’s still annoying” adds Malott. “We're paying to be at the school, they should just figure it out honestly.”
OPSEU is planning ar rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto next Thursday.
There won’t be any picket lines locally that day, because the union is encouraging all members to make the trip to Toronto.