Strike woes only the beginning of tough road ahead for students

Picketers walk the line at Canadore College

We will Vote NO because it will make the colleges stronger, better for students, and better for the next generation.

While faculty members picket at the Loyalist College entrance on Wallbridge-Loyalist Road in Belleville, the college's student government has been organizing daily get-togethers as a way to boost student morale. What is worse, they are threatening that if faculty rejects management's offer, the strike will be prolonged for several more weeks. "Students are looking at their semester and they're doing the math and saying, 'I've been out of school now for four weeks". However, that is contingent on a faculty vote this week on the College Employer Council's final offer.

But getting back to class doesn't necessarily mean getting back on track. "We want to be back in the classroom, we don't want to be suffering right now like we are".

Huckla is eager to hear the results of the vote.

"It's just a shame that I find the college system is being so stubborn about this".

From his perspective, he noted that if, "the minister can tell the colleges how to spend the money they've saved, she can tell them how to bargain fairly as well".

"For the students to finish their academic semesters on time, or as close to on time as we can get, it's those weeks that have to be compromised", he said. Does this really sound like a concern for student welfare?

Meanwhile, Huckla pointed out that other workers have been impacted financially, too.

"Ultimately students need their education because that's what they're there for", said Mclaughlin.

While none of this will likely satisfy anxious students, those concerned about the financial impact of the strike might be happy to be reminded that the province is creating something of a "hardship fund" for students adversely affected by the disruption.

"We're also extending into April", Vaughn said. "This event is aimed at delivering the message that politics should not stand in the way of our future". However, the college's plan treats all programs as though they are the same.

Talks between the College Employer Council and the union broke down last week, with the council asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to schedule a vote on its offer.

"Nothing has been removed, nothing has been added that will negatively impact faculty - these are positive gains", she said.

Although largely supportive of the move on the part of the government, Warren Smokey Thomas, the head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union which represents the faculty, opined the, "government's plan to treat students fairly should be matched by moves by the colleges to treat faculty fairly". "All I can say is this isn't true".

The colleges say this offer gives faculty everything they asked for; more full time positions, increased pay and job security for contract faculty, except academic freedom, which would give teachers more control over what happens in their classrooms. I have repeated many times to our senior administration "How do you want to be viewed as an employer".

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