Ontario college support staff on strike

Classes will continue. But students are confused.


Workers picketing outside George Brown College

Ontario Colleges say that classes will resume next week and students will be able to move into residences, despite the fact that 8,000 support workers went on strike at 12:01 last night.

Cleaners, food service workers, classroom schedulers, IT support workers and maintenance workers are among the Ontario Public Services Employees Union members who walked.

“It’s gonna look like hell here in two, three days,” Warren “Smokey” Thomas, President of OPSEU, told a crowd of dozens of picketers outside of George Brown College’s Chef School in Toronto around 8:30 a.m.

He said that workers are striking to protect full-time jobs because the colleges want to add more part-time employees. “I tell parents and students that we’re fighting for their futures,” he said. “How many people do you know with university degrees who are working retail?” he asked the crowd.

They have also asked for wage increases. Under the expiring collective agreement, employees who have worked full-time for more than one year are paid between $18.27 and $44.91 per hour.

The College Employer Council’s last offer on August 31st included a 4.8 per cent raise over three years, which would put the average salary at just over $59,000. The offer also included adding a one-year probation period for new employees and offering four-day work weeks for some.

Thomas said that colleges are flush with cash, as evidenced by raises given to college presidents. He said that if “Daddy Dalton,” referring to Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, wants improve education, “he better put his money where his mouth is.”

“I have to pay my own way through college,” Brianne Dubeau, a second-year student at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., said over the phone from her workplace in Barrie after learning about the impending strike on Thursday. “It would have been nice to know what’s going on. If classes are going to be cancelled, I could stay here and work more shifts.”

As of Thursday, Dubeau hadn’t received any information from her school.


Ontario college support staff on strike

  1. I will be attending Seneca College next week to begin an accelerated programme. This strike seems completely unnecessary and the timing hinders my support for labour — striking the week before 500,000 students go back to school, in an election year and in a recession.

    I for one will do my best to remain calm and show up early if I require services from the Registrar, administration, library, etc. I may also consider always having a digital video recorder in case I get assaulted by a picketer for simply trying to go to class.

    As long as I am allowed to go to class and can access the Registrar I see no other reason at this point to have the union employees return. The Colleges should renege on their originally offer, lock them out and hire temporary employees for the remainder of Fall 2011 / Spring 2012 classes and see how long the strikers’ union fees will keep them going.

    They want job security? How about education security for the students?

    • It would be illegal for them to hire temporary workers. People misunderstand unions and strikes a lot of the time. The workers are not like Canada Post and Government, $59K is a higher end of the scale vs the norm. They hire these part time staff who come in late consistently and the staff turnover for part time is very high due to really low wages. One guy that my husband worked with didn’t get a raise from the college in years.

      Support staff are the backbone to the operations of any school anywhere and I think it will be hard to operate without I.T. support, maintenance, administration in student loans and course selections and changes just to name a few of the operations that are within their legal rights to be on strike right now.

    • Your support for Labour? hahahahahaha. And exactly what branch of the Conservative Party do you belong to? Its a good thing for you that these people clean up your drooling and droppings. Imagine inventing an imaginary violent scenario between you and a picketer, exactly what has made you go there? What do you believe? You take your camera and put it somewhere where you might find it inconvenient.

    • If these people did not go on strike your degree, certification or other form of achievement that you are going to college for will no matter because these people are fighting for YOUR future. If they hire part time staff to do a full time job there is no benefits and the pay will be minimal. It is also illegal to hire temporary employees to do the jobs of the staff on strike. These people are your education security.

      The idea of getting assaulted by a picketer is preposterous. This is just ignorance and disrespectful to whoever is picketing. In fact at the Durham College campus it was one of the picketers that assaulted. Be respectful and mindful, they are people and have rights. Most of the people working at the colleges have degrees and have had their secondary education.

      If you are going to comment on the rights of the workers, you may want to do the research on the labour laws and don’t be self centered. Listen to what the picketers have to say, you might just learn something.

  2. I wish I was making $18 an hour :( Stupid 2 degrees being worthless ;)

  3. Classic Union busting tactics. Listen, it’s not the well paid union worker that you should direct your anger at just because you work an unprotected job, the union workers are getting paid what they deserve, what every man deserves! yes, unions need to be more closely regulated, but the real problem is all the part time work and agencies (demons) that are destroying the average man. The more unions are put in place the better, learn to protect yourselves, fight for equality, the war on the middle class is real! And btw I’m a freelance artist and have never worked a union job in my life I long for the day we can establish rules to protect all workers.

  4. I think that if the workers think they deserve that, they should get it. My issue is that the strike should have been earlier on in the summer, so that it could be over and done with before students came back to school. Like the quote says, it is very frustrating being in the dark when we have to return in a few days. One thing I know for sure is that next week is going to be crazy for profs and students alike.

    • The reason is leverage, pulling a strike in the summer would give them Zero power, it’s the same reason that the bus drivers in Ottawa chose winter to strike, the bad weather and the lack of transportation during the holiday season gave them leverage. No leverage = no deal. It’s unfortunate that the public has to suffer for the workers to get some attention, if you can think of a better way to deal with such a tug a war situation you would be my hero :)

  5. This is ridiculous, as a Fanshawe student for the past two years. I’ve had to endure strikes as though they were as common as traffic lights. One after another. I’m beyond curious as to what is really being deemed as important, and whose well being is really the concern.

    as I understand it, cleaners, food service workers, classroom schedulers, IT support workers and maintenance workers are among the Ontario Public Services Employees Union members who are now officially on strike. These are major components to the healthy learning environment that we as students have paid for; and once more, students are the ones to take most of the damage. Especially if you need food readily available at all times, or you work with computers, which most students do. Not to mention the sanitary issues which will take place if the strike persists.

    I’ve made it through the first few strikes and I WILL endure this one; however, I have lost confidence in those who are supposed to be my life role models.

    Conceptually speaking, shouldn’t the ones who are in charge of educating our future generations be ABLE to? and those who are teaching the new generations how to maintain professional ethics, be PROFESSIONAL? there is nothing about this strike that is professional.

    Students who have paid the large tuition fees, are now NOT getting their moneys worth yet again… maybe I SHOULD have gone into po…

    I’ve stated my experience. You should too. What isn’t said isn’t heard.

  6. I find the timing to be quite ridiculous why wait til the start of school? its the students who have to suffer for nothing. Its an economic recession some people can’t even find jobs right now they should be glad they have a job and not only that they had a good offer yesterday at the bargaining table but rejected. I know a handful of people that wouldn’t mind working there for the salary they are getting. Give the students a break go back to work please.

  7. I understand that this is the first “Support Staff” strike in 32 years. What does that say about support staff. Truly, it is not all about money. Every taxpayer should be concerned about the future of “jobs” in Ontario. I don’t want to see the next generations settle for “part-time” jobs. This world is tough enough without worrying whether you have a job next week/month, etc. Try to be patient and supportive during their first strike in 32 years. One day, you could be applying for one of these sought after full-time jobs.
    When the President of a certain college got a 40% increase in salary recently (the out the “Sunshine List” for yourself), it’s hard to understand the nickle and diming they throw at support staff.
    Let’s just hope it’s resolved sooner than later.

  8. I am tired of being used as a pawn for public service unions. They only make $59 k a year? At least they have a full time job. Should they get a raise, certainly, I support that, but not by punishing the students. Again. It doesnt matter which union it is whether it is this one or another, it is always the public that suffers. The government doesnt care, why should they? These labour disruptions save them millions in unpaid wages. The longer the strike the better. The striking workers never recover the lost wages, no matter how much of an increase they receive. And the union leadership, well, this is what they live for, validation of their existence. They are still getting thier pay cheques.

  9. For those that ask why did the union wait until now:

    A) Their contract wasn’t up until September 1st, which meant they were still bound to their previous one. They don’t strike if they still have a contract.

    B) Strikes, while unfortunate for all those involved, end quicker if they come at a time that the services are being missed. Last time they were on strike in 1979, it was in February and it lasted two weeks. All the students were already registered, so management wasn’t in a hurry to get them back to work.

  10. I am really not in agreement with this strike. I understand the issues but it didn’t need to take a strike to resolve them. I am a second year student and my children attend the campus daycare. My entire future is now on the line because if I have no childcare for my kids I cannot complete my program or even attend class’s for that matter. I am just so upset with this and to boot I’m paying 10 thousand dollars in tuition for a program I probably won’t even be able to complete if this strike does not end.