On Campus

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.

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