'We're ready to talk ... let's go!': College faculty rally on Day 10 of strike

Hundreds of teachers and union supporters gathered at Bay and Wellesley streets on Wednesday, marching and holding signs that called for more academic freedom and a better plan for part-time faculty.

College Employer Council says the final offer to the union is still on the table

Hundreds of union members gathered outside the office of Ontario's advanced education minister on Wednesday. (CBC)

Day 10 of the Ontario college strike started with a rally outside the office of Deb Matthews, the advanced education minister, in downtown Toronto. 

A section of Bay Street, south of Wellesley Street, was shut down Wednesday morning by hundreds of teachers and union supporters marching and holding signs that called for more academic freedom and a better plan for part-time faculty.

"We just want the two sides to get talking as soon as possible," said John Kneller, who teaches film and television production at Sheridan College.

The labour dispute involving more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians began Oct. 16, after the two sides failed to reach a new contract agreement. Some 500,000 students have been awaiting a return to school since the strike began. 

On Monday, chief executive officer of the College Employer Council, Don Sinclair said no new talks were scheduled and he likely didn't see the strike ending anytime soon. Talks broke off on Oct. 16, and, according to Sinclair, the final offer from the colleges is still on the table.

The OPSEU rally in downtown Toronto shut down Bay Street south of Wellesley Street on Wednesday. (CBC)

"We want them to come back to the bargaining table, and to bargain in good faith and not just muscle their way through," said Anne Lyden, an English instructor at Humber College.

"Our union has sent out a message saying, 'Come back and talk to us. We want to negotiate.' And they have not negotiated anything at all."

George Brown College teacher Judy Lashley was even more emphatic. 

"Get them back to the table. We're ready to talk. We're ready! Let's go!" she said. 

Minister urges both sides to 'find a solution'

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Matthews's office said that although the government has no direct involvement in the bargaining process, they want students back in the classroom "as quickly as possible."

"We ‎know that the solution to this strike is at the bargaining table; however, the bargaining parties have not met for the past week. I urge both parties to return to the table and find a solution that allows students to return to the classroom where they belong," the statement read.

The union representing striking staff and faculty are demanding more full-time positions and an increased role in academic decision-making. The council has offered a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years and has promised to improve the conversion of contract faculty to full-time positions.

George Brown College teacher Judy Lashley. (Chris Mulligan/CBC)

Both sides seem to agree that the ubiquity of precarious part-time work and academic planning are central to the dispute. 

Eleven of the province's 24 public colleges have a reading week this week but picketing is continuing at all public colleges.

Some concerned students — the same who have collected more than 101,000 signatures in an online petition demanding a refund for days lost due to the strike — are speaking with several MPPs at Queen's Park on Wednesday. They are expected to make a statement following the meeting.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated that faculty and staff rejected the colleges' final offer ahead of the strike. In fact, faculty did not vote on the offer.
    Oct 25, 2017 2:09 PM ET

With files from Muriel Draaisma and Andrew Lupton