college strike 2022

Ontario college students are absolutely freaking out over forthcoming strike

If you've been a student in Ontario in the last two years, you've had anything but the normal school experience that one would hope for.

The impromptu switch to completely remote learning has been a disaster for many, with only brief stints of a return to classroom for proper in-person instruction and undeniably vital socialization.

For post-secondary learners, it's been especially frustrating, as many feel that they haven't been getting what they're paying big bucks for. And now, a looming strike has served as the cherry on top of a crummy few semesters.

Approximately 16,000 faculty across the two dozen public colleges in Ontario are set to strike later this week, with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) saying in an open letter on Monday that members will strike starting this Friday if their demands are not taken seriously.

The union is asking that ongoing labour disputes be taken to binding interest arbitration, in which an impartial arbitrator looks at the wants of both parties and makes the ultimate decision — hopefully some type of fair compromise between the two — with both sides having to stick to their proposed resolution.

The deadline that OPSEU has given the College Employer Council (CEC) to respond is 12:01 a.m. on March 18, at which time employees will walk off the job if the CEC has not accepted.

Staff rejected the CEC's last offer in February, with their union saying in a letter yesterday that their employers have "told us from the outset of bargaining that [they] are unwilling to negotiate unless we drop our proposals that [they] find unacceptable."

"Binding interest arbitration has been the usual way for labour disruptions to be settled in the past when we have not been able to negotiate an agreement. It is the common way for labour disputes in the post-secondary sector to get resolved — common enough that it’s written into several collective agreements," the union's letter continues.

"All you have to do is AGREE... we will not strike if you agree to binding interest arbitration."

At this point, some seem sure that the union will indeed end up striking, while others are more hopeful that it may not happen.

But the threat of such an incident mid-second semester of the academic year is stressing the heck out of a lot of students, especially after what they've already had to deal with in terms of their education during the pandemic.

Instructors started work-to-rule action three months ago as part of the dispute, meaning that they have been deliberately doing the bare minumum required of them instead of going above in beyond — which has, of course, impacted students and their education.

Many are understandably pissed at the prospect of now also having to defer their schooling to a later date or completely lose the work they've done so far.

Those who have co-op and internship components in their programs are freaking out even more at the prospect of completely losing their placements.

And many feel completely in the dark about what a strike would mean for them.

"My college might be going on strike and it’s possibly the worst time to be doing it," one student tweeted in the middle of the night last night.

"If colleges strike I’m gonna lose my fkn mind I swear," another added around 1:45 a.m., also apparently kept awake by the drama.

Toronto institutions impacted include Centennial, George Brown, Humber, and Seneca Colleges, as well as nearby Durham, Conestoga, Fanshawe, Fleming, Georgian, Mohawk and Sheridan.

Students and staff at these schools will unfortunately just have to wait until Friday to see what happens.

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