By: Sophie Armstrong & Melissa Galevski
Students from Ontario colleges rallied in front of Queen’s Park today to air their frustrations about the ongoing strike. Their message? Get back to the classroom.
College students from across Ontario came out to the Students First Rally, hosted by the College Student Alliance. Students asked both sides of the labour dispute to go back to the bargaining table.
Faculty and staff from Ontario’s 24 colleges have been on strike for the past three weeks. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) – the body representing college faculty and staff – and Ontario colleges failed to come to terms ahead of the Oct. 16 deadline. Faculty demands include a more balanced ratio of contract to full-time staff, better job security and greater academic freedom.
Students worry they could lose their semester without reimbursement for their lost time.
Nicole Baker is a third-year collaborative nursing student in a program partnership between George Brown College and Ryerson. Due to the strike, Baker and her classmates cannot fulfill their clinical placement hours.
“I’m really concerned that they are going to extend the semester into the winter break (…) I know a lot of us are afraid we might lose our year and might extend it into the summer,” Baker said.
Toby Stevens-Guille, another third-year collaborative nursing student, said that he is worried about accessing OSAP if the semester is extended.
“I’m not sure if OSAP will continue to pay for people because it’s not OSAP’s fault,” Stevens-Guille said.
The rally took place one week after the OPSEU held their own rally in front of the Ministry of Education in Toronto, where they asked students to be patient.
Tala Muhtadi, a first-year student at Niagara College, came to Ontario from Jordan to study journalism. Her studies abruptly stopped only five weeks into her first semester.
“Suddenly, out of nowhere, the strike happened, and now I have nothing to do. My family is in Jordan and I pay rent (…) Staying at home, doing nothing, wasting my year and paying all that tuition for nothing is just so frustrating,” she said.
Muhtadi doesn’t know whether she will be compensated for the money she has lost in tuition and is waiting for answers from the college.
The mediator for the Ministry of Labour has called both parties to head back to the bargaining table on Nov. 2.
Tomorrow, OPSEU members will rally at Queen’s Park to send the message that both students and faculty want to get back in the classroom.
Students First Rally at Queen’s Park, Nov. 1: