Negotiations reach a stalemate

Nov 7, 2017
Faculty, counsellors, instructors and librarians at all 24 Ontario colleges have been on-strike for over three weeks now. The strike began as a call to pay faculty hired on-contract equally among other things. These faculty members are working as contractors and have continually done work they are not paid for, and sometimes have to work multiple jobs in order to make a livable wage.

While colleges fully expect faculty to support students in their learning inside and outside the classroom, only a fraction of the faculty get paid for doing that. The contracted faculty rely on classroom instruction hours to get paid. Contracted faculty do not have sick leave, they simply get to choose when not to get paid.  Meanwhile, access to benefits is limited to the ever shrinking category of Partial-Load contract faculty.

I am fortunate to work in a full-time capacity at Sheridan College. I find myself stressed out by the financial limbo as a sole provider for my family. This financial limbo is where many of my colleagues hired on contracts live. Thankfully as a fulltime faculty member I receive both pay and benefits for my work.

Yet, I am also on-strike with my contractor peers. We want more full-time positions, so that faculty can have a decent lifestyle and the ability to pay their bills. While picketing in the first two weeks of the strike, I got to meet some wonderful and highly talented contract faculty who continue to work long hours without any job security. I met one contract faculty member who has five degrees, but, she has had a hard time making ends meet for over a decade.

Things may be at a stalemate considering most colleges have not yet heard of a return to work date or return to class date.  While it may seem like there are not many options, one of the simplest solutions that has been discussed has been increasing the level of funding provided to colleges to provide colleges with more stable funding.

I know I speak on behalf of many of my colleagues when I say that we don’t want the quality of education to suffer. They (contract faculty) are doing the same work we are, for less pay. They respond to student emails, they meet outside of class for help, with no compensation. This is not an isolated issue, this effects the students and the faculty equally as the students have not been to class while there is a strike.

There are multiple dilemmas attached to the strike. For example, for those faculty who are working multiple jobs to survive, how can they be expected to provide extra help to students or even respond to questions via email? Or, how can CEC offer a solution where everyone wins.

Equal work should always be rewarded with equal pay, this is a basic human right. As such, the union and the CEC should return to the bargaining table with open minds so that the students don’t lose out on the opportunity to learn and potentially graduate on time.