Conestoga students rally as faculty strike enters 5th week

A barrel burns as striking faculty walk the picket lines at Fanshawe College's front entrance on Nov. 1 2017

As we come to the end of the fourth week of the college faculty strike, and we look forward to another week on the picket line, I feel compelled to address a number of mistruths that have been published by George Burton, the President of Canadore College, in the past week. Many students are finding it hard to cope with the financial and mental stress caused by the strike. "We want to be back in the classroom, we don't want to be suffering right now like we are". "The best way for the colleges to reach a collective agreement is to negotiate, not to force a vote on an offer that has already been rejected by the faculty bargaining team".

At the request of the College Employer Council, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has ordered that striking faculty members from the province's 24 colleges vote on the council's latest offer starting today at 9 a.m. and ending Thursday at 10 a.m.

If the vote fails, he said students are "still looking at government intervention, saying we're five weeks in, when is the government going to step in and get them back to work?"

Thomas went on to say, "It's important to remember that the fund the minister has announced is being paid for by faculty, not by the colleges".

Huckla said making up lost classes will likely mean students will lose their holiday break, and probably the spring break, too.

"The students are the real losers in this situation".

Students from different programs and academic years who had gathered at the entrance of Conestoga College and Homer Watson Blvd Monday received supports in the form of honks from vehicles passing by.

The colleges assert they are concerned about students.

I think that any reasonable person can see that these demands will lead to a quality college system and a quality education for our students.

"We're also extending into April", Vaughn said. "This is not a protest but a peaceful sit-in and demonstration of the power of the student voice".

Although Niagara College's student union is not officially sanctioning that action, Huckla said students are welcome to participate if they choose.

"Nothing has been removed, nothing has been added that will negatively impact faculty - these are positive gains", she said. In spite of that, the union offered a new settlement to the colleges on Monday as a last-ditch effort to end the strike and the colleges refused to address it. "All I can say is this isn't true".

As for what's happening, the College Employer Council recently called on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)-the union representing striking workers-to suspend the strike and re-start classes. The offer before us for a vote is a new offer with new concessions.

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.

We'll keep you posted as more details emerge.

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