Student concerns remain, despite possible end to strike

College strike

Faculty members walk the picket line at a Humber College campus in Toronto on Wednesday

Ontario colleges launched a new website today - collegevote.ca - to provide information for the 12,000 faculty, who will be voting on the colleges' offer, this week.

About 12,000 college faculty members have been off the job since October 15 after contract talks broke off between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents striking staff, and the College Employer Council, which represents Ontario's 24 colleges.

As for what's happening, the College Employer Council recently called on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)-the union representing striking workers-to suspend the strike and re-start classes.

OPSEU members are set to vote over the next three days on the final offer put forward by the Colleges before talks stalled last week. In Sudbury, the strike has affected more than 5,000 students at College Boreal and Cambrian College.

The offer includes a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, improved benefits and several measures to tackle concerns regarding part-time faculty.

The increasingly bitter Ontario College strike is entering its fifth week with no end in sight.

The union has urged its members not to vote in favour of the proposal, arguing that the offer contains problematic language around academic freedom and full-time staffing.

"There's no way we agreed to those things", he said.

"It's not about academic freedom at all, it's actually about all the ways in which you can get in trouble if you say the wrong thing", he said. "The best way for the colleges to reach a collective agreement is to negotiate, not to force a vote on an offer that has already been rejected by the faculty bargaining team". Many students are finding it hard to cope with the financial and mental stress caused by the strike.

Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews has said the government wants to see students return to the classroom as quickly as possible. She says a number of faculty at the Owen Sound campus were also supportive.

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