Kitchener-Waterloo·2017 Review

Fall semester disrupted by college faculty strike

The school year was disrupted for about 500,000 college students at 24 colleges in Ontario after faculty voted in favour of a strike in early October.

The 2017 strike lasted from Oct. 16 to Nov. 21 and affected about 500K students in Ontario

Ontario's striking college faculty voted to reject a contract offer from the College Employer Council on Thursday and continue their nearly five-week job action. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

At least 500,000 college students in Ontario were out of class for five weeks in 2017, after their college faculty voted in favour of a strike.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), representing 12,000 faculty, set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday, Oct. 16, after the College Employer Council (CEC) walked away from the bargaining table.

The main issues for college faculty:

Union representatives told CBC News the main sticking points were:

  • They want to have a senate, which would have a say over the academic vision of the college.
  • They want the ratio of full-time and contract staff to be split 50 - 50.
  • They want better job security for contract staff, including full-year contracts and guaranteed benefits.
  • They want contract staff to be paid the same amount as full-time faculty members if they are doing the same work.
  • They were asking for some intellectual property rights for course material created and published online.
  • They want more academic control in the classroom, including the right to choose course material.

Faculty at 24 college locations, include Conestoga College in Waterloo region and Guelph, walked the picket lines for five weeks while their union engaged in a tenuous bargaining process.

Teachers and faculty staff of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union walk the picket line at George Brown College in Toronto on Thursday, November 16, 2017. Ontario's striking college facility voted to reject a contract offer and continue their nearly five-week job action. The 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians have been off the job since Oct. 15, leaving some 500,000 students out of class. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
Back-to-work legislation

After union members voted overwhelmingly against a contract offer, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met with OPSEU and the CEC and said she would table legislation that would end the strike.

​By Nov. 21, some students were back in school with a readjusted schedule, while others decided to pack it in and apply for a tuition refund.

On Dec. 20, the results of a binding mediation-arbitration process were announced and were applauded by both the colleges and the faculty.  

Ontario Colleges pointed out that the arbitrator had awarded faculty a wage increase of 7.75 per cent over four years — the original salary position offered by the College Employer Council before the strike began in October. 

Meanwhile, OPSEU celebrated new language added to the collective agreement around part-time staff and seniority — a key issue for them.