EDITORIAL: No ‘two sides’ in OPSEU strike

Four weeks in, Ontario college faculty (including some at Ryerson) and librarians are still in a dispute with the College Employer Council and so far, the response from students has been annoyance and indignation at both sides.

This is the wrong approach.

Yes, having classes you paid for cancelled is irritating. But no student has ever lost their year over a strike before and it is the administrators’ responsibility to ensure it stays that way. Faculty and librarians have nothing to do with it.

On top of that, the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union is demanding colleges be run better.  More job security means more preparation time.

Qasim Alibhai, a sessional ESL instructor, told CBC news it is not currently uncommon for a contract teacher to be handed materials for a course the night before it begins.

The union asked for a 50:50 ratio of full-time to part-time hiring to fix this. The College Employer Council rejected the offer. The bargaining team said it would cede too much control over curricula and scheduling to faculty, and that it would cost the province too much.

Though far from unanimous, the strike has roused anger among some students who are demanding the dispute end so they can return to class.

As the Ryersonian reported last week, a few dozen students gathered at Queen’s Park for the Students First Rally organized by the College Student Alliance. “We are not pawns,” read one of the protest signs, while another read, “Students are worth it. End the strike.”

The rally followed three weeks of general student complaining, throughout the media, that their lives are being disrupted and their disgustingly high tuition is being wasted. Both are true, but whining about it and imploring both sides to sit down and be civil will accomplish very little.

Tuition is so high and faculty jobs are insecure because of cutbacks to education spending.

The strike is fighting cutbacks. The fact that OPSEU is standing up and challenging the policy that makes both faculty and student lives miserable is a good thing for us.

As well, OPSEU has repeatedly called for an end to tuition hikes, and for increased investment in education.

Last year, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress called for free education and endorsed the Canadian Federation of Students’ rally for an end to tuition. It would help if the CLC and OPSEU were more vocal on this front.

That may not thrill the College Student Alliance, which generally leans  right, but it may help  establish solidarity between students and striking faculty.

The reality is the same government that is looking to quash faculty demands for more job security is also driving up tuition, and any enemy of it that demands greater investment in education is in line with students’ interests.

By all means, be angry that our tuition is infuriatingly high and that effectively no guarantees have been given that your time and money won’t be wasted by administrators. But recognize a common interest between those standing up to austerity.

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