By: Eugenio Garro
Approximately 30,000 Humber students may not have classes to attend as early as Monday because their professors are headed for a possible strike.
With an Ontario-wide college strike looming, students may be wondering not only what will happen to their semester but also what the strike is about.
Over the course of negotiations, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has said one of the top priorities is academic freedom and collegial governance.
The union is seeking a bigger say for professors on how the colleges are run.
“It’s not about money,” said Humber Faculty Union President Bob Bolf. “It’s all about the success of student careers.
“All the faculty have had careers; we know what it takes to be successful in the workplace, we need to be able to make decisions that affect courses and programs that students are enrolled in and right now we cannot make those decisions.”
CEO of the College Employer Council Don Sinclair said “the union will tell you that the colleges are broken. That’s not our view. I believe that colleges aren’t perfect by any means but we have a great track record in Ontario.”
On the OPSEU website, “academic freedom, a key demand and a no-cost item”, is listed as a top faculty priority but was not included in the employer council’s final offer.
“I think they’re playing a negotiation tactic called brinksmanship,” said Bolf. “It’s like playing chicken; you wait until the very end to see what you can get.”
Another key issue for the union is a reduction in full-time staffing and an increased reliance on contract workers.
As of now, colleges employ full-time professors, partial load professors who teach seven to 12 hours, and part-time professors who teach six hours or less. The union only represents full-time and partial-load faculty.
When breaking down teaching contact hours, full-time professors do 50 per cent of the hours, 20 per cent are partial-load professors and part-time professors do the remainder.
When it comes to contract work, the employer council proposed a “temporary full-time” position that would pay at the partial load rate. The union said the position would have no job security and could be terminated with two weeks notice.
The offer would also allow unrestricted hiring of part-time faculty; meaning the employer would never to hire full-time faculty again.
The faculty wants a three-year contract at around 10 per cent salary increase, while the employer is offering a four-year contract at seven and a half per cent, confirmed by College Employer Council CEO Don Sinclair.
Andrew Leopold, director of communications at Humber, said the school has plans in place for if there is a strike and students have every right to be concerned. When it comes to what would happen to the students Leopold said it depends on the duration of the strike and how many classes are missed.
“Humber has a number of contingency plans and if the strike happens we will put those contingency plans in place,” Leopold said. “Part of the contingency plans will be that classes will be suspended and when the strike is over classes will resume,”
“Humber has always put students at the center of everything we do and we will want to ensure that every student has the chance to achieve their learning goals for the year.”