Oct. 16 was the first day of the province-wide strike involving 24 colleges. Mohawk College had professors gathered at each of its entrances to begin their movement, #StandWithFaculty. Twitter has been trending with this hashtag. People are also using this hashtag to show their support towards faculty, to bring awareness and gain information about the strike.
Heading into week three of the strike, student frustrations are still at an all-time high. Mainly because they want to be in the classes for which they have paid thousands of dollars. This prompted another hashtag to gain media attention on Twitter, #WePayToLearn, which was the start of an online petition.
The #WePayToLearn petition was created on Oct. 16, demanding that college students be reimbursed for every day they miss of class. On the website change.org it states specifically:
- Full-time students must be reimbursed $30/day should a strike occur
- Part-time students must be reimbursed $20/day should a strike occur
The petition already has over 100,000 signatures, with its goal being 150,000 signatures.
At 9 a.m. on Nov. 2, students across Ontario plan on rallying at Queen’s Park to ask Premier Kathleen Wynne for their money back. Rally organizers are encouraging students to attend, calling it an opportunity for their voices to be heard.
While students across Ontario are taking matters into their own hands, the union and College Employer Council (CEC) remain on different sides.
President of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 240 Geoff Ondercin-Bourne said the colleges will not negotiate.
“They’ve walked away from the table. We’ve adjusted our offer. That was our final offer,” Ondercin-Bourne said. “They walked away. They didn’t want to discuss it. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re waiting for them to say they want to come back to the table.”
However, CEC Spokesperson David Scott disagreed.
“The union started this strike, which is by definition and action walking away from the table,” Scott said.
Scott said accusations from the union aren’t fair and what he called, “the blame game” needs to stop.
“We don’t want to get into this game of ‘No it’s your fault, no it’s yours’ … that’s not helping anyone,” Scott said. “This is very serious for thousands and thousands of people, students and faculty members who have had their lives turned upside down.”
While students are pleading for the Ontario government to intervene, Ignite News reached out to Deb Matthews, advanced education minister. Matthews’ press secretary, Jasmine Irwin, responded on behalf of Matthews:
“We know that the solution to this strike is at the bargaining table, however, the bargaining parties have not met for the past week,” Irwin said. “I urge both parties to return to the table and find a solution that allows students to return to the classroom where they belong.”
Although faculty have been advised by their union not to speak to media, Kevin MacKay, vice president of the union local and a professor at Mohawk College, spoke out in hopes he could reach students confused by this strike.
MacKay said: “From the beginning of the bargaining process, there was no intention on the employer side of actually negotiating. They made it very clear from the first day. We were surprised. We made several moves as faculty to try and get a deal. There was just zero movement on the other side. So, the issues are important and we believe in these issues. Unless there is resolution of these issues, we are very worried about the next 50 years of the college system.”
MacKay listed one of the issues as fairness for contract faculty. According to Mackay, over 70 per cent of professors in the college system are part-time workers with no job security and unequal pay for all the extra work they do.
While Ontario professors, counsellors and librarians wait for a deal to be settled, Mohawk College Vice President Paul Armstrong says he stands by Mohawk students and faculty.
“We recognize it’s a difficult period for everybody involved, the students and the faculty,” Armstrong said. “But at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team and we’re all committed to the same thing which is student success. We will get through this. We’re going to come back and we’re going to be even better for it at the end.”
As for whether or not Mohawk is considering offering refunds, Armstrong said there aren’t any plans to do so.
“At this point in time, we’ve said Mohawk will not make a decision to refund because we’re not expecting that students will have to make up time on their own,” Armstrong said. “However, I think it’s a powerful message to the government. It represents the views of all the colleges.”
If students are interested in attending the rally, you can find more details on Eventbrite.