OPINION: Classrooms should be free from contract disputes

by | Nov 29, 2017 | Faculty Strike, Opinion

Let’s face it, from the perspective a student, the strike was a nightmare.

Pushed from “maybe a couple weeks” to the knife’s edge of losing an entire semester, the circumstances were frustrating. Our time and education was used as bargaining chips thrown around by both parties. Neither wanted students out of the classroom nor wanted to give in to the demands across the table.

Our time, effort and thousands of dollars was caught in the middle of an argument driving a wedge between students who had no say, teachers we may have personally been fond of and the schools and the system that are the means to our education.
We wanted what’s best for our teachers, but we also wanted what we paid for so we can move forward in life. So, I propose in the case of a labour dispute, teachers and students do not leave the classroom.

Even our college President Christ Whittaker had suggests using another model for labour negotiations.

“I don’t believe that a model where students are disadvantaged because of debates between other parties is a good model,” Whittaker told Humbernews.ca. He cites other models of bargaining systems do not leave students or vulnerable “out in the cold” but what Whittaker is hinting at is that maybe it’s time to designate post-secondary faculty, at least in the colleges, as an essential service.In other words, a third-party arbitration for settling these disputes while students remain in the classroom.

Since 1972, with an amendment in 1997, an arbitration commission was created for Ontario police to handle labour disputes so that officers cannot strike and leave citizens in need. A similar council exists for fire fighters. For ambulance services, a collective bargaining agreement in 2001, Sec. 4(b) stipulates that during a strike a certain amount of ambulance workers will remain working.

And this all makes perfect sense.

It would seem unruly and would cause chaos should police, fire fighters and ambulance workers strike, leaving citizens down and out. They are, after all, essential services.

So why should this not be implemented for teachers, when students are left down and out?

Now that the strike is completed, we are left to rush our remaining semester in less time with no reading week and a shortened Christmas break. Along with the typical stress of school, it all has to be completed in less time.

The only chance we have of getting money back is participating in a class-action lawsuit or a government implemented refund system. We have to prove with documentation that we suffered financial strain during the break to get our money. I’m going to hazard a guess that this not the vast majority of the half million students.

Labour disputes that involve students’ education may only get worse should they happen again in the future considering how enrollment has increased by at least 1 per cent since 2013 and will go up moving forward. Should a strike happen again, even more students will be involved.

We live in a time where getting a post-secondary education is essential for obtaining a livable wage and a career that can support many of our goals in creating a life worth living. As the means to attaining that life can be hanging in the balance due to a labour dispute, it shows the system is not working.