What Does Kerra Say? - Ontario college faculty strike: A short-term Wynne and a long-term loss?

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: JEN DOEDE
The Ontario college faculty strike may be over, but the lasting impacts of it will loom on many people for months to come.

I cannot imagine the frustration that is circulating among those who have been affected by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) strike against the College Employer Council (CEC). From students, to part time workers, to professors, to parents, to administrators, this strike has far-reaching impacts that may take a lot of time to recover from, be it financially, emotionally and even culturally.

Though the strike, which has become the longest strike in OPSEU history, has finally come to an end, this is surely not the last we have heard of it.

Though initially choosing not to have the Ontario government involved in the matter, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne flipped on her decision, seemingly after a law firm announced a class-action lawsuit against Ontario colleges in regards to the strike, or because the strike extended much longer than anyone expected and all eyes turned to her to fix the problem.

To me, this appears to be a matter of not taking the issue seriously enough from the get-go.

Maybe Wynne's government figured this issue would sort itself out in an efficient amount of time. But with offer after offer being rejected, and more and more anger growing from all directions on this issue, Wynne must have realized the strike was not going to solve itself, and the decision was finally made to step in.

Fortunately for students, the Back-to-Work legislation passed by Wynne's government means that the roughly 12,000 part-time professors and other part-time employees of the college are being forced to return to work, as the strike has been called to an end.

If you did not already know, Back-toWork legislation is enacted when the government deems a segment of workers to be necessary to the economic development of the country, and those individuals not being at work will have a negative impact on the economy as a whole.

Considering the millions of dollars Ontario students had invested in their 2017-2018 school year, this makes sense to some degree. But my question is, will the Back-toWork legislation take away the only bargaining chip OSPEU had to fight back against the CEC? Going on strike was the only way OPSEU was able to have their issues heard, to actually be listened to. Now that it's gone, what is the likelihood of the CEC actually putting together a proposal that OPSEU can agree on?

As someone who was not affected by the strike, it is easy for me to say I am supportive of OPSEU and their fight for a less precarious workplace and a better ability to provide the best services they can for students; to me, this sounds like a reasonable request. And OPSEU had been doing their best to negotiate better working conditions without going on strike, but to no avail. However, with friends who have been deeply and negatively impacted by this strike, I can only hope that this disruption leads to a conclusion where the issues that part-time faculty struggled with are resolved, or else, what was the point?

Certainly the decision to go on strike must not have been an easy one, but what we must remember is that there is a valid reason for this strike, though admittedly it may be difficult to see that past the anger many feel as their bank accounts dwindled and they could not access the education they paid thousands of dollars for. And it would be easy to place the blame on OPSEU, but they are just workers who want to be treated right. And as a fellow young worker in the field, I think we all know what it's like to be treated like shit by your employer (shout out to anyone who's worked retail or hospitality, or both) and not having the power to do anything about it. OPSEU had that power, and Wynne and her government took it away.

It is a failure of Ontario Colleges to properly pay their employees for the services they provide, and to properly provide a fair workplace environment. The CEC vastly underestimated OPSEU's power, and though Wynne has taken away their power to strike, CEC and all those impacted by the strike need to acknowledge that these workers have a right to fair compensation for their work. And considering the millions of dollars invested into the post-secondary industry, it only seems right that we put an appropriate monetary value on those who are providing the very education students have proven they so desperately desire.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.