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College Faculty Strike: FAQs

Last updated: Oct. 27, 2017

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Why are college faculty on strike? The College Employer Council (CEC) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) have been negotiating a new collective agreement (contract) since July, as the previous agreement expired on Sept. 30, 2017. On Sept. 14, college faculty across Ontario voted 68% in favour of taking strike action. OPSEU and CEC continued negotiating until the strike occurred on Oct. 16. Negotiations have been “on hold” since the strike started at the request of the mediator who is appointed by the Ministry of Labour.

Why would a mediator request they take a break? Don’t they want students back in class? Negotiations are usually put on hold only if it is in the best interest of both parties. This means the mediator felt negotiations were stalled and the parties needed to take a step back to re-evaluate their circumstances and asks.

How long is the strike going to last? Unfortunately, we can’t answer this question – no one can. A deal can be made at any point during the process. In 50 years of Ontario colleges, there have been three full-time faculty strikes; no strike has lasted longer than 20 days.

I’m a college student. What should I do during the strike? First thing’s first – stay calm! Though it’s a frustrating situation, there are things you can do to help prepare yourself for when class resumes. Keep up with your assignments, readings, and any material your professor may have put online prior to the strike. Here’s a blog with tips on how to handle the strike as a student:

You can also use your voice in a positive and respectful manner to encourage OPSEU and CEC to reach an agreement immediately. Use the hashtag #StudentsFirst to express your concern online, or check out our blog on how to write a letter to your MPP:

Will I lose my college semester? Students have never lost a semester due to a faculty strike. No one wants this to happen, and as it’s never happened before, it’s hard to say how long the strike would need to last for a lost semester to become reality.

I’m a student. Do I cross the picket line? If you feel comfortable and safe to do so, yes. You have the legal right to be on campus during the strike. Remember to be polite and respectful to picketers on the line. Listen to what they have to say. No matter what, don’t resort to physical violence or verbal insults/threats.

I’m an international student. Will the strike impact my student visa? No. The government confirmed to CSA that international students will not face sanctions from the IRCC due to semester changes from a faculty strike.

Will students get reimbursed for lost class time? Probably not. This is because colleges plan on rescheduling classes and exams so students do not miss any in-class hours, assignments or placements. In the history of college strikes, students have never been reimbursed by the government OR their college. If an entire semester is lost, a refund may be a viable option, but no one can confirm that at this time.

What will happen to my OSAP? Am I still responsible for my loans? Will there be an adjustment of loans or grants? Students who have taken OSAP loans are still responsible for the money they have signed for. If a semester is extended into the next year, it is up to the Ministry to adjust loans or grants due to the strike, if required. At this time, however, the Ministry has said they cannot provide details on tentative scenarios that may or may not occur.

How am I going to make up lost class time or exams? The answer to this question is institution specific. Each college has the responsibility of creating a contingency plan to make up for lost class time or missed exams. Students must contact their college and/or program coordinator for program-specific questions.

Who does Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPESU) represent? Striking faculty are represented by OPSEU. This includes full-time professors, some partial-load instructors, some library staff, and counsellors. Here’s their final offer to CEC:

Who does College Employer Council (CEC) represent? CEC represents the colleges and college administration. Here’s their latest offer to OPSEU:

Who does the College Student Alliance (CSA) represent? Students. For over 40 years, CSA has advocated on behalf of Ontario college students. CSA is not supporting OPSEU or CEC; we just want students back in the classroom so they can receive the education they’ve invested in.

How is CSA advocating for students during the strike? CSA has been paying close attention to negotiations since July. Since the strike began, CSA has been putting public pressure on OPSEU and CEC to get back to the table and negotiate a deal.

We’ve spoken with CBC National, the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, CP24, and more. Members of our Board of Directors and staff have met with Minister Deb Matthews to gain clarity on student questions and concerns. From that meeting, CSA solidified a CSA-specific contact within the Ministry to answer questions we field from students.

We have also provided our member student associations with letters to send their MPP’s, as well as providing students at large an MPP letter template they can send as well. Our student tips have reached over 70,000 through social media alone.

Our role is to keep providing students with the facts and to apply continuous pressure on negotiation parties. We have a rally planned at Queen’s Park on November 1 should faculty still be on strike. Find event details here:

Why doesn’t CSA want the government to impose back-to-work legislation? It is in no one’s best interest for the government to intervene with back to work legislation; this would mean the government forces both parties back to work and the old agreement remains until they reach a new deal. If a deal isn’t reached before the government steps in, a strike could happen next year, too.

I keep hearing different facts from different sources. Who do I listen to? Trust the information from your college and your student association. If something’s unclear, ask questions. If something doesn’t seem right, say something. Staying properly informed is crucial throughout this process.

Why is CSA remaining neutral? Shouldn't you pick a side? Remaining neutral is not the same as sitting on the sidelines.

Both sides have claimed that students are in their best interests, but the neutral mediator still hasn’t recommended they should return to the table. The only way to reasonably advocate on behalf of students is to stay neutral. CSA’s neutrality puts us in a position to have the ability to engage in open and honest dialogue with both sides, and not be used as bargaining chips for one side or another to parade an endorsement.

CSA is remaining neutral and not supporting faculty because the reality is students are not equal partners at the negotiating table. OPSEU represents their members and their members alone. Though OPSEU has publicly stated they have the best interests of students at heart, CEC has said the same thing. This negotiation is between two parties, and those two sides should accept the responsibility of reaching an agreement. Students want to return to the classroom to receive the education they’ve invested in.


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