Forcing college faculty back to class doesn’t fix the problem

Cartoon by Cassidy McMullen

Back-to-work legislation doesn’t fix the problem colleges and students are facing.

While it is true students are back in the classroom, faculty still do not have a contract and the academic workforce still depends on part-time labour.

College-wide, 70 per cent faculty are still part-time. This reflects negatively on the college system. As a public institution, colleges need to set an example for the workplace, including types of jobs and how to handle negotiations during a strike.

As members of a union, faculty work with a collective agreement. That agreement ended Sept. 30. The colleges and union could not agree on a new collective agreement, so the faculty went on strike.

Even though faculty are back in the classroom, they are currently working under the contract that expired Sept. 30. The ability to strike is their biggest bargaining chip.

The strike came to a close when the Ontario government passed Bill 178. The legislation tramples the idea of collective bargaining.

Instead of reaching an agreement through bargaining, the faculty have to go through process that starts with mediation and could end in arbitration. Despite the fact that during the strike the colleges never really negotiated.

Throughout the lengthy dispute, the two sides actually didn’t negotiate very often.

Over the five-week period, the two sides met for just four days of bargaining.

Also, several college-related twitter accounts were caught suggesting they were at the bargaining table when they were in fact, not.


Tweets for College twitter accounts during the strike saying they were in talks with OPSEU when they were not.

Not once did the Wynne government get involved to stop this behaviour.

Job growth chart of different college jobs over the last three years

Nationwide, Ontario is one of the most underfunded for post-secondary education. Ontario ranks last for per-student funding in Canada. This has lead to an increase in the number of contract faculty over the last ten years.

Contract faculty are only paid for the hours they teach. This means they don’t get paid for any time they spend marking, planning lessons or meeting with students.

While unfair for the employees, this also means in some cases students might not be getting a quality education. It’s not hard to find stories of stressed, out-of-the-loop professors, who don’t have time to talk after class or return emails.

This leaves students suffering because faculty are not being paid enough to support them.

Having some contact faculty is beneficial to the college system. They are experienced industry professionals who aren’t necessarily looking for a full-time or even part-time job teaching. The problem is there are too many of them in the system.

It’s not just the educational system that has a problem with too many contract positions. It’s a growing trend in the Canadian workforce. Positions that have traditionally been secure jobs like teaching, accounting and tech are growing into more precarious careers.

Census data shows less than half of Canada’s population aged 25 to 45 worked a full-time job for the whole of 2015: the lowest since 1980.

A survey of one of the largest temp agencies in Canada, Randstad Canada, estimates 20 to 30 per cent of jobs in Canada are temp work, contract work or self-employed.

With insecure jobs like these on the rise that means, just like contract faculty, we could be working at the same jobs for years, reapplying for that same job every couple of months and being paid less that our co-workers who do the same job but are full-time.

So, while no one liked the strike, back-to-work legislation did not solve the problems students are facing.

Even though students are back in the classroom, the issues that surrounded this strike are still alive. Contract work is a problem. The Canadian workforce is facing this issue, now and in the future.

If employers are uncooperative and uncaring, and if the government does not fund post-secondary or support faculty’s right to bargain, it is hard to say where we will find our selves in the future.

When we’re in school, we look for positive role-models. We want hope for our futures. How are we supposed to be hopeful for full-time jobs, if 70 per cent of the people who are teaching us our skills don’t have one?

The colleges should have been cooperative and thought about how they actions would impact not only their pay day but faculty and students.

If their goal is to educate their students and have them succeed, they, and the rest of Canada, need to join in the fight against contract work.

If you want your voice to be heard on this issue, write a letter to your MPP or tweet us your opinion @DCUOITChronicle.