Classes at Fanshawe College will be cancelled if roughly 540 of its academic staff members walk off the job Monday morning as part of a potential province-wide strike.
OPSEU Local 110 represents full-time professors, counsellors, and librarians at the college. Its president, Darryl Bedford, described the last offer tabled by the College Employer Council Tuesday as “completely unacceptable,” saying it would have entrenched inequality in the system.
The employer walked away from the table when the offer was rejected, and OPSEU set a strike deadline for October 16th at 12:01 a.m.
“It represents a step backwards in terms of fairness,” said Bedford, who is in Toronto as a member of the provincial bargaining team. He says the union is ready to resume talks at any time.
Sticking points for the union include giving faculty and students a voice in academic decision-making, and what is described as the “ongoing exploitation of contract faculty.”
Bedford says nearly 1,100 teaching staff at Fanshawe College are considered part-time and must reapply for their jobs every four months.
“Students [are] getting a college education so they can try and get a full-time job, or certainly be treated fairly in the workplace. So we’re just simply asking students to understand that many of their faculty, many of their professors, are in a precarious situation.”
It’s a plight that some Fanshawe students are attuned to, despite mild concern about its impact on their education.
“I would want some more job security too,” empathized second-year food and nutrition management student Sean Steckler.
“I wouldn’t want to just go semester to semester, because they’re trying to plan their lives, and plan their jobs around it.”
First-year electrical techniques student Hassanan Gany believes everyone should be able to fight for their rights.
“But we don’t want it to affect us,” he said. “We’re going to have to come back after the strike and make up for the work that we missed… We’ve got jobs to do.”
Although classes will be cancelled, the college itself will stay open. Student Services Vice-President Michele Beaudoin suggests students use the time off to look ahead in course content, and get a head start on assignments.
“I’ve never seen students lose a term during a faculty strike,” she said, reflecting on nearly 30 years working at the college-level, and her experience working through three strikes.
“But that is dependent on the length of the strike,” she said, noting it’s a “top of mind” concern for students.
Students will still be able to access the gym, the student wellness centre, and the library throughout a potential strike. Beaudoin says varsity sports and Fanshawe Student Union-planned events will continue, while students can access online course materials. She says students should use the college’s website as a source of information and updates.
A strike action will impact 24 colleges across the province and more than 12,000 academic staff.