As the 2018 winter semester comes to a close, the Federation reflects on the past year and what it has meant for students and campus workers. Since fall 2017, Ontario has seen multiple strike actions on campuses across the province. These actions have made it clear that Ontario is facing a crisis when it comes to fair working conditions for workers in post-secondary education.
The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU), which represents more than 17,000 faculty and support workers in Ontario’s public colleges, engaged in a province-wide, 5-week long strike that greatly impacted both students and workers. The Ontario government’s decision to implement “Back to Work” legislation for striking college workers completely undermined the bargaining process between OPSEU and the Colleges Employers Council. With college workers returning to poor working conditions similar to what they had started with, the Federation expects more contention and potential strikes in future bargaining efforts. This strike became the first for the 2017-2018 academic year and would be followed by more.
Strike actions were mandated by a number of unions representing graduate students. Graduate students face unique pressures as they hold the dual mandate of being academic workers on campus as well as students. These pressures can take the form of ever-increasing tuition fees, low wages and poor working conditions. We have seen these struggles emphasized through strikes by Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing Teaching Assistants, Contract Faculty and Graduate Assistants at York University and CUPE Local 4600, which represents Teaching Assistants and Contract Instructors at Carleton University. While CUPE 4600 eventually came to an agreement with the Employer, CUPE 3903 is entering its eighth week of strike. The Federation continues to stand is solidarity with the striking workers of York University.
More recently, another strike mandate was approved by local 610 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). The fact that so many campus unions have entertained the thought of a strike action, and in some cases, have followed through on strike actions is a clear indication that from all corners of the province, campus workers’ are increasingly dissatisfied with their conditions and wages and campus employers’ continue to bargain in bad faith.
Ontario has covered very little ground in the fight for university and college workers’ rights. The Federation calls upon all provincial parties seeking election to commit to greatly improving the working conditions of campus workers. Improving the quality of post-secondary education starts with support for these workers. This means increased and stable funding to post-secondary institutions across the board paired with stronger legislation within the Employment Standards Act.
#FairnessForStudents means fair working conditions for all campus workers!