Faculty at Ontario Tech University are walking the picket lines today saying they “were left with no choice” but to go on strike.
The strike started today at 11 a.m. at Ontario Tech’s North Campus in Oshawa. Picket lines are set up at the campus’ two main entrances located at Conlin Road and Founders Gate off of Simcoe Street.
Kimberly Nugent, past president of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA), said a strike is the last thing she wanted to happen.
“We’re absolutely devastated. I was talking to my students and none of us wanted this. But we’re left with no choice. We’re trying to come up with creative solutions. But we’re being met with noes, and no willingness to negotiate with our concerns,” Nugent said.
The UOITFA, which represents 281 full-time professors, voted 80 per cent to reject the university’s most recent offer this past weekend. Contract talks continued until late Wednesday night, according to the university website.
“The Ontario Tech bargaining team invited the Faculty Association (FA) to resume negotiations this evening and bargained until just before midnight. We believe significant progress was made toward a negotiated settlement,” the university wrote on its site.
“We are uncertain as to why the (UOIT) FA opted to adjourn the meeting and why a tentative deal couldn’t have been finalized tonight. The university has remained at the table throughout negotiations and we will continue to bargain with the FA whenever they make themselves available.”
One of the main concerns the faculty brought to the negotiating table was workload and work-life balance.
Nugent said there is not enough staff to support the increasing class sizes at Ontario Tech.
According to numbers from the Ontario University Application Centre, Ontario Tech enrolment applications have increased by 33.4 per cent in the past year.
“We’ve seen it ourselves in the classroom, classes have doubled,” Nugent said. “Maclean’s (magazine) data shows that over the last five years class sizes have gone up by over 30 per cent in first year and fourth-year classes.”
In an email sent directly to students and faculty, Ontario Tech president Steven Murphy said the university has tried to negotiate with the UOITFA.
Murphy wrote: “The (UOIT) FA has known for months about the issues we could consider, and those we could not. We have been transparent at the table. We have also been flexible in trying to find solutions. The level of misinformation in our society should concern everyone; especially those associated with a university.”
The two sides started contract negotiations in June 2021.
The university declined the Chronicle’s request for an interview with Murphy, referring us to the school website.
This is the first strike in the history of the school, which opened its doors to students in 2003.