By Stefanie Phillips
Faculty members representing 24 Ontario colleges are heading into their fourth week of strike, surpassing the length of the last college teachers strike in 2006 that disrupted classes for 20 days.
The Ontario Public Sector Employee Union (OPSEU), representing 12,000 faculty members, went on strike on Oct. 16, fighting for more rights for employees, including the number of partial-load faculty members to match the number of full-time faculty members on contract and for academic freedom in the classroom on a day-to-day basis.
The union represents faculty from George Brown College and Centennial College, two schools that are part of the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson.
At the request of a mediator, the two parties returned to the bargaining table on Nov. 2 for the first time since the strike began. Bargaining ended on Monday after negotiations between the two parties fell through.
The College Education Council (CEC) asked the Ontario Labour Relation Board to schedule a vote for college faculty members to accept the latest contract put forth by the CEC. OPSEU representatives said in a press conference Tuesday that they will be encouraging faculty to vote no.
Voting will take place from 9 a.m. on Nov. 14 until 10 a.m. on Nov. 16 through an electronic ballot system. College faculty members will need to vote 50 per cent plus one to accept the deal and end the strike.
In the meantime, 500,000 students remain out of class, including some students in Ryerson’s collaborative nursing program.
The Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing (DCSN) at Ryerson has continued posting updates to the strike information web page since the page was created on Oct. 13 and has been using email to communicate with students.
Nancy Walton, director of the DCSN at Ryerson, said the department has been working on contingency plans while the strike is still ongoing.
“We are trying to make plans aimed at a return to work that might be soon or one that might be later—different things may need to be in place, depending on the length of the strike,” she said in an email to The Eyeopener.
Nejat Khalid is a third-year nursing student at Ryerson, part of the collaborative program. The 20-year-old has not been able to attend her community nursing class and clinical placement since the strike began. She hopes that the two sides will come to an agreement soon so she can finish her semester.
“I’m hoping for a smooth transition back to placement … and adequate time to catch up on everything we’ve missed and clear communication on everything that we’ve missed.”
But Khalid said she and her classmates can’t help but worry about their workload when the strike does finish.
“Now that we’re going into week four [of the strike] you can’t just expect to cram everything that we’ve lost into one week’s time.”