Ontario Independent

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Students can’t afford for faculty to go on strike, says an Ontario minister

Students can't afford a strike, according to an Ontario minister.

Key Takeaways:

  • According to the province’s post-secondary minister, college students in Ontario can’t afford a strike right now.
  • Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities, said she had received numerous complaints from students and their parents.

Students in Ontario’s colleges can’t afford a strike right now, the province’s post-secondary minister said Tuesday, just days before faculty members are set to stop providing services completely.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union’s college faculty bargaining team, which represents professors, instructors, librarians, and counselors, has informed colleges that they will go on strike on Friday unless the institutions agree to binding interest arbitration.

Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop stated that she had received numerous complaints from students and parents.

At an unrelated news conference in Brampton, Ont., she said that “students cannot afford a strike at this time.”

Also read: After a union ultimatum, a strike is looming for 24 Ontario colleges

“They’ve returned to class for the first time in a long time. That’s exactly where they should be. That’s where they get their best education, where they can collaborate with their peers and professors.”

Premier Doug Ford has stated that he dislikes when people go on strike, “especially in these conditions, when we’ve been through so much.”

The College Employer Council has stated that it will accept final offer arbitration, which allows an arbitrator to choose between two final offers.

“By insisting on interest arbitration to end this round of bargaining, the union has refused to recognize that the colleges have made no demands and have already agreed to several of the union demands,” the employer council said in a statement this week.

“It is not lost on us that by stating that it will accept interest arbitration, OPSEU is indicating that it is willing to accept a compromise if forced, but not willing to propose one on its own.”

Ontario minister says college students can't afford for faculty to strike  this week
Students can’t afford a strike, according to an Ontario minister. Image from iHeartRadio

The colleges argue that the union is demanding changes that the employer cannot make, citing a mediator’s report from October 2021 concluding that there was no way to agree with the union’s remaining proposals, which he described as “highly aspirational and completely unrealistic.”

In January, the union advised its members to reject the colleges’ final offer, citing workload, contracting out of faculty work, and part-time faculty benefits as major concerns.

On Monday, the union wrote to the colleges that binding interest arbitration is a popular way for labor conflicts in the post-secondary sector to be settled. It would be a win for students, not the union or the colleges.

“While we believe that the best deals are reached through continued negotiations,” the union wrote, “you have stated from the beginning of bargaining that you will not negotiate unless we drop our proposals that you find unacceptable.”

Source: CTV news

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