Thousands of college faculty members and supporters got together at Queen’s Park yesterday to rally as the OPSEU strike continues into its third week.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents over 12,000 college professors, instructors, counselors and librarians, sat down at the bargaining table with the College Employer Council (CEC) the same day.
This is the first time the two sides have met since negotiations between the council and union stalled on Oct. 16.
Chair OPSEU College Faculty Divisional Executive RM Kennedy took to the podium at the rally with a message from bargaining team member JP Hornick about the negotiations.
“[JP Hornick] can’t say too much about what’s going on, but she did say that she is hoping that we can make enough noise that council can hear right down at the Sheraton,” Kennedy said.
Before the rally began, rain poured down on attendants, but that didn’t chase anyone away. The organized group resiliently prepared for the rally, bringing yellow rain ponchos, extra signs and even warm pizza for the strikers, who were bused in from across the province.
The boisterous crowd chanted and danced throughout the rally, waving banners with messages like, ‘Stop the freeze on full-time jobs’ and ‘Ontario colleges get an F in fairness.’
They continued to shout their demands for better job security with longer job contracts and updates for programming to give faculty more academic decision-making in their courses.
“I think that the strongest message that really came through to me today was that this fight is about quality of education, having such a ridiculous proportion of part-time faculty teaching students is really eroding the quality of students’ education right now,” said Maureen Carnegie, accessibility consultant at Humber college.
Some of the roughly 500,000 college students who are out of school as classes have been suspended have been rallying in solidarity with the faculty.
Paramedic students from Durham college were on scene marching through the crowds, expressing their concerns with signs reading, ‘Our Learning Has Flatlined!’
“We want to come here in solidarity with our faculty. Especially being in the paramedic program, they really go the extra mile for us and they deserve our support in this time,” said Sam Xerri, a paramedic student from Durham College. “We have been practicing and studying on the break, we would really rather be back in class.”