Sol­i­dar­ity with On­tario col­lege teach­ers’ strike

The McGill Daily - - Contents - —The Mcgill Daily edi­tio­r­ial board

At mid­night on Oc­to­ber 15, the On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vices Em­ployee Union (OPSEU) went on strike af­ter fail­ing to reach an agree­ment with the Col­lege Em­ployer Coun­cil in their col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing process. OPSEU rep­re­sents pro­fes­sors, coun­selors, in­struc­tors, and li­brar­i­ans across On­tario col­leges. These 12,000 staff mem­bers from 24 col­leges across the province are strik­ing in op­po­si­tion to job pre­car­ity and in sup­port of aca­demic free­dom. Job pre­car­ity refers to the vul­ner­a­bil­ity or in­sta­bil­ity of part-time, con­tract, and sea­sonal jobs. Pre­car­i­ous work­ers are not of­fered se­cure, long-term con­tracts, are paid less for do­ing the same work as full-time or tenured em­ploy­ees, and are not pro­tected from sud­den ter­mi­na­tion of em­ploy­ment. OPSEU’S main de­mands in­clude a 50:50 ra­tio of par­tial-load fac­ulty to full-time fac­ulty—cur­rently, part-time con­tract in­struc­tors make up 70 per cent of the On­tario col­lege pro­fes­sor work­force, mean­ing that col­leges are pay­ing more in­struc­tors less for the same amount of work. OPSEU has also de­manded more aca­demic free­dom and de­ci­sion-mak­ing power for fac­ulty mem­bers in col­leges. The Union ar­gues that more se­cure and au­ton­o­mous roles for pro­fes­sors, staff, and li­brar­i­ans will en­sure a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion for their stu­dents.

At this time, 12,000 em­ploy­ees lack as­sur­ance of when their em­ploy­ment will be se­cured, and 300,000 stu­dents have had their classes can­celled with­out ad­min­is­tra­tive com­pen­sa­tion. The Union has been crit­i­cized for tak­ing away stu­dent op­por­tu­ni­ties due to can­celled classes. How­ever, we must re­al­ize that the root cause of the strike is col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors’ ex­ploita­tive labour prac­tices and lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for staff and stu­dents. Thus, blame should not be di­rected at pick­eters. Un­der­stand­ing that pre­car­i­ous work harms peo­ple in var­i­ous sec­tors of labour across the coun­try, em­ploy­ees and stu­dents at ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try must stand in sol­i­dar­ity with OPSEU in their fight to en­sure that work­ers’ rights are re­spected.

The move­ment against job pre­car­ity also im­pacts the Mcgill com­mu­nity. Just last year, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Mcgill Univer­sity Sup­port Em­ploy­ees (AMUSE), a union rep­re­sent­ing stu­dent and non-stu­dent ca­sual em­ploy­ees on cam­pus, went on strike af­ter fail­ing to reach an agree­ment with Mcgill. Their de­mands in­cluded a liv­ing wage, im­proved trans­parency and ef­fi­ciency in hir­ing, and ac­cess to re­sources such as health ben­e­fits and ID cards. AMUSE also de­cried job ca­su­al­i­sa­tion on cam­pus, the process through which more jobs are des­ig­nated to “ca­sual” em­ploy­ees, thus forc­ing em­ploy­ees to take on more re­spon­si­bil­ity with­out in­creas­ing job se­cu­rity or pay. AMUSE’S strike re­sulted in an in­crease in wages. In the time since the strike, Floor Fel­lows have also been union­ized and are now paid for their roles in Mcgill res­i­dences.

There was, how­ever, a no­table lack of sup­port for AMUSE dur­ing its strike last year, and the same hos­til­ity now colours con­ver­sa­tions around the OPSEU strike. Dur­ing the AMUSE strike, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing their soft picket of the Ed­ward Snow­den lec­ture, union mem­bers faced crit­i­cism and harassment from stu­dents claim­ing that the strike was an in­con­ve­nience for the Mcgill com­mu­nity. Sim­i­larly, the cur­rent OPSEU strike has elicited frus­trated re­sponses from stu­dents who are con­cerned about the ways in which their own lives have been put on hold. While this is un­der­stand­able, those on the front lines of the picket are work­ing to­wards a more eq­ui­table labour stan­dard for them­selves, stu­dents, and all fu­ture work­ers. The fight against job pre­car­ity and ca­su­al­i­sa­tion hopes to im­prove both to­day’s labour mar­ket and worker’s rights for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Stu­dents and al­lies must recog­nise the sac­ri­fices be­ing made by pick­eters in or­der to en­sure that OPSEU’S re­quests are met. Stu­dents should also make their ally­ship ap­par­ent through phys­i­cal pres­ence, state­ments of sol­i­dar­ity, and by rais­ing aware­ness about job pre­car­ity and its im­pact on all of us.

The Mcgill Daily edi­to­rial board would like to ac­knowl­edge that Inori Roy, Co­or­di­nat­ing Edi­tor, is also the Pres­i­dent of AMUSE. How­ever, the opin­ions ex­pressed in this edi­to­rial are those of the en­tire edi­to­rial board.

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