OPSEU: Colleges Holding Students Hostage

OPSEU chief negotiator JP Hornick was at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU chief negotiator JP Hornick was at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

(WINDSOR, ON) – Into their second week of a work stoppage, striking faculty at St Clair College today held a rally to demonstrate their resolve and solidarity. Joining the teaching staff were students at the college along with supporters from other Windsor union locals and both OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas and chief negotiator JP Hornick.

The union is attempting to negotiate a new contract for faculty and support staff, but talks are at an impasse.

“We’re still in the same position as when the strike started,” Hornick said. “We called the mediator to see if (the colleges) are ready to move from the position they’ve held since July, which has been not to negotiate, but to try and stonewall. They replied with, ‘No. They’re not changing their position.’”

Well over 200 union members, students, members of the public, and striking college faculty were in attendance at a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Well over 200 union members, students, members of the public, and striking college faculty were in attendance at a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

More than 12,000 faculty at 24 colleges across the province have been on strike since October 16. Ontario’s College Employer Council, negotiating on behalf of the government, has said that OPSEU’s demands are too costly. The union responds that many of the issues have no cost attached to them and that negotiations can’t happen if CEC isn’t willing to be at the table.

“Even on the no-cost items surrounding academic freedom, collegiate governance, better security for the partial load in the form of one-year contracts rather than four-month to four-month contracts, they refuse to negotiate on any of those issues,” Hornick told media. “This has become clear that College Council and administrators are holding on to power and profit rather than looking out for he best interests of the students or the faculty.”

St Clair students voice their concerns during a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

St Clair students voice their concerns during a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Classes are currently cancelled at the colleges, including St Clair, and the Liberal government has recently said it will not seek to legislate the teachers back to work. Hornick said that the students’ semester is very close to being in jeopardy as the strike approaches week three.

“Students are justifiably frustrated and concerned and honestly we feel for them. We feel the College Council is holding both the students and the faculty hostage at this point,” said Hornick. “There’s no reason we can’t be at that bargaining table. We’ve also seen incredible student support. More than I’ve seen at any other labour dispute in Ontario.”

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas addresses the crowd at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas addresses the crowd at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Smokey Thomas wants to see the sides return to bargaining before students lose out on their education.

“When the faculty go back, they know, they’ll work really hard to make sure that nobody will be disadvantaged,” said Thomas. “There is some suffering. It’s called collateral damage. It’s extremely unfortunate, but the employer did put us in the position.”

On the cost issues, OPSEU is attempting to secure job security and equal pay for equal work for its members. The issue for union negotiators is for a 50 per cent split between full-time and part-time faculty while currently it is around 75 per cent.

“I recognize that organizations do need part-time workers, some people just want to work part-time, and sometimes there’s not enough work to make that person full-time,” Thomas said. “But you need some rules around how you treat those part-time workers. So, that’s the crux of the battle here. How are you going to treat your workforce?”

OPSEU members striking at St Clair College on 27 October 2017, were joined on the picket line by members from other unions.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU members striking at St Clair College on 27 October 2017, were joined on the picket line by members from other unions.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU is planning a rally to be held on November 2 at Queen’s Park with members being bussed in from across the province, in order to put more pressure on Deb Matthews, Ontario’s Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, to get both sides back to the bargaining table.

“We’re just trying to pressure the government into exerting some influence,” said Thomas. “I appreciate that they’re not thinking legislation, but they can exert some influence as they are major funders of the colleges. I don’t think it’s a great stretch to settle the strike.”

OPSEU chief negotiation JP Hornick addresses the crowd at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU chief negotiation JP Hornick addresses the crowd at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

An OPSEU member conveys the disconnect on the college's side of the bargaining table, during a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

An OPSEU member conveys the disconnect on the college’s side of the bargaining table, during a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas was at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas was at a rally in support of striking St Clair College faculty in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Well over 200 union members, students, members of the public, and striking college faculty were in attendance at a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Well over 200 union members, students, members of the public, and striking college faculty were in attendance at a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

An OPSEU member demonstrates her support for the union's demand to bring parity to full- and part-time faculty, during a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

An OPSEU member demonstrates her support for the union’s demand to bring parity to full- and part-time faculty, during a rally at St Clair College in Windsor on 27 October 2017.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.

5 Comments on "OPSEU: Colleges Holding Students Hostage"

  1. K. Webster | 30 October 2017 at 19:19 |

    Let’s be clear about the reality – both sides are holding the students hostage; and considering the mediator is standing on the sidelines and no one is talking, it is time to take the process out of their hands. It’s time for the province to stand up for the students and put teachers back into the class room. it’s also time to make the employer feel some pain, too. Tuition refund – now; and back-to-work legislation – now.

  2. Daphne Hoover | 29 October 2017 at 13:47 |

    “We feel the College Council is holding both the students and the faculty hostage at this point,” said Hornick.

    Wrong, Hornick. The Union is on strike — they are holding the students hostage. The College Council gave you their final offer.

    You don’t have support of the rank and file — especially the 40% who didn’t vote on the strike mandate. At best, you had 2/3 of the 60% of those who did vote and many of them are no longer on your side because they have missed a paycheque.

    Whenever you say that your movement is 12,000 strong you must know that you are lying. You and the rest of the bargaining team need to resign in disgrace.

  3. Mark Feltham | 29 October 2017 at 10:49 |

    Paragraph 2 refers to “suppport staff.” Support staff members have a separate collective agreement, are not part of this round of bargaining, and are not on strike.

    • Ian Shalapata Ian Shalapata | 29 October 2017 at 11:06 |

      In this case “support staff” includes counsellors and librarians who are also on strike as part of the faculty bargaining unit.

  4. Mikhail Ali | 28 October 2017 at 08:55 |

    The College presidents clandestine secret meeting at Snow Valley this past Thursday indicates the nature of their position, and they are scurrying together to bolster the misinformation and propaganda battle, which they are losing.

Comments are closed.