Get back to the bargaining table, premier warns
Wynne says she ‘expects’ colleges and union to reach a deal before semester is jeopardized
Premier Kathleen Wynne is not ruling out back-towork legislation for 12,000 college faculty now on strike, while warning she and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Minister Deb Matthews “expect” both sides to get back to bargaining and hammer out a deal.
“We really do not want students to lose their term,” Wynne said Monday morning in downtown Toronto.
“And you know my expectation and the minister’s expectation is that both sides of this negotiation will find a way to get back to the table to re-engage because that’s where the agreement has to be forged.”
The premier said she and Matthews are “working as hard as we can to get them back. Never rule anything out in this business, but we really would like to see the agreement at the table, and I think everyone knows that that is what we are encouraging right now. And in fact it’s beyond encouragement. It really is an expectation that both sides would find a way to get back to the table.”
Matthews said she has personally spoken to both the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union to convey this message. However, no talks are scheduled. Students across the province are growing increasingly worried about the impact the job action will have on their semester. The strike is now in its third week for students at a number of colleges — although some had a previously scheduled five-day reading week and have been out of class for only six days so far.
But for students in apprenticeship and other programs that mandate certain hours for certification, any time away raises huge concerns given they need those hours in order to write provincial exams.
“We really do not want students to lose their term.” PREMIER KATHLEEN WYNNE
Centennial College says it is “actively working” on how to handle programs such as its postgraduate paralegal, where the requirements are set by the Law Society of Upper Canada.
“The issue is shared by other colleges that offer this program,” said Veronique Henry, who chairs the college’s Centre for Legal and Administrative Studies.
Because of the semester break, students have missed six days in class to date, and “the college is actively working on semester recovery planning. Depending on the length of the strike, strategies for the paralegal program may include scheduling classes in the evening and/or on weekends, as well as extending the semester end dates” to make up the time.
Henry said “these strategies will ensure that paralegal students have the opportunity to meet the instructional hour requirements for this program and can then be permitted to apply to write the law society licensing exams.”
Also at Centennial College, the chair of the automotive program said accommodations will be made for apprenticeship students who started in-class work, as well as those who were scheduled to start it when the strike hit.
But for Ryley Martinell at Fleming College in Peterborough, the uncertainty of the situation has put his future in jeopardy.
His school’s reading week just wrapped up, but he said there’s been no word on how the strike will impact the heating/refrigeration/air conditioning exams he has to write in December so he can get out in the workforce.
“We’ve had two emails since the strike started, from Fleming to all students,” the 22-year-old said. “They’ve been general updates. They don’t really have any information . . . We’ve been completely in the dark” on the trade program.
“The only thing I can see now is that we are not going to be done before the New Year,” he added. “To be able to get the exams, they are provincial licences, and to be able to qualify for the exams, you have to have so many hours. By missing these classes we don’t have the lab time we are going to need.”
Fleming College says it is looking to extend the semester in December.
“Students are rightfully concerned about the impact of the strike on their learning and their programs,” said Drew Van Parys, executive director of marketing and advancement, adding longer days are also an option.
Matthews said the government “has no intention” of introducing back-to-work legislation at this point. “Those two parties can find the solution,” she said. “I know there is a solution; I know they can find it, and I am, in the strongest possible terms, asking that they get back to the table.”
The colleges and unions are about $250 million apart on wages and staffing demands, with the union seeking 50 per cent of jobs to be full-time given the growth in contract positions.
Depending on how it is measured, by head count full-time faculty currently represent about one-third of all teachers, and by teaching hours they represent about 50 per cent.
Students across the province are growing increasingly worried about the impact the college strike will have on their semester.
Ryley Martinell, a student at Fleming College in Peterborough, says the uncertainty surrounding the teachers strike has put his future in jeopardy.