Striking Fleming College faculty likely to vote ‘no’ on latest contract offer
Faculty at Fleming College say they’re fatigued but determined as the Ontario college faculty strike has entered its fifth week.
“I’m tired and I’m sad and I just want to be back in the classroom with my students,” said Shauna Longmuir, semester co-ordinator for justice students.
But faculty are willing to remain on the picket line. Longmuir and other faculty have suggested their lost wages be forwarded directly to their students.
“To know that that money is being redistributed to the students who are struggling in so many ways feels like there may be some benefits to all of this,” said Karen Bateman, another instructor for the justice program.
Union members do applaud the government’s plan to possibly reimburse students in financial need with saved wages from the 12,000 Ontario faculty on strike.
Striking faculty have begun voting on the final offer from the College Council. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents striking faculty members, is urging the teachers, librarians and other staff to reject the offer.
“My guess is that this is going to be a strong ‘No’ vote,” said Liz Matheson, president of OPSEU Local 352 at Fleming.
“We’re not prepared to accept the return to work conditions either.”
Les Smith, a father of six and co-ordinator for Fleming’s business administration program, says he’s frustrated with the strike but remains committed. He says the fight is not about wages, but for academic freedom and job protection.
“We need academic freedom because nobody knows better than what these kids need than faculty,” he said.
Students such as Miesje Connolly-Robertson say they’re simply stuck in the middle and left with questions on whether the semester can be saved.
“We’re nervous, we’re very stressed out, we have some anxiety,” she said.
Voting over the next three days will be done online or by phone. Results are expected to be released Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Smith has a direct message from faculty to students.
“Hang in there — there’s no way they’re going to let you lose your semester,” he said. “So you just hang in there and we’ll be back soon.”
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