At Durham College in Oshawa, at 7 a.m, the protestors met up at a portable stationed at the intersection of Founders Gate and Simcoe Street, and shortly after, the group of faculty separated to block the three entrances to campus.
How the strike takes place is, protestors walk in circles holding picket signs on the left side of the roads, which other students, staff and visitors have to go through to enter campus. The cars are stopped in their tracks, and some faculty walk over and greet the drivers, handing out pamphlets of why they are striking, and approximately every two minutes, the line piles up, and then they let the cars drive through. It is expected the other colleges are doing the same.
The way the protest is organized on this campus, for the moment, the first shift will go from 7-11 a.m, then the next shift from 11-3, and the last shift will join that shift for their last hour and stay from 2-6. It is expected to be the same tomorrow, though it might end a few minutes early.
The weather was not in their favour on the first day. The teachers and I have had to stand outside in 4-5 degree weather, having to bundle up with coats and gloves, and Tuesday morning is not expected to be any warmer.
I participated in the morning walk. My hands got frigid and my legs were cramping up from too much walking. The minutes went by very slowly and the first hour and a half felt like twice that much. I had to borrow gloves and wear my thickest sweater to stay warm. For the next week, it’s assumed the teachers on strike are going to be doing this every day, some even doing two shifts. A DC teacher, Deb Tsagris, didn’t mind the cold walk as much as me. “I like walking, so I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been feeling energized.”
There has been some resistance and annoyance for the drivers affected by this protest. Some people have honked and others decide to if they can make a U-turn. Some drivers dared to drive on the other side to get through the protest line instead of waiting. This caused Commencement Drive to put up pylons to stop these cars from doing so. The drivers of these cars may be charged, and everyone driving through is on camera.
A few years back, a different strike was looming, but it was resolved at the last minute. The last official strike that took place at DC was more than a decade ago, in 2006, when OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) asked for more teachers, smaller classes and more faculty time with students. That one took three weeks and an incident ended up killing a Centennial College teacher.
This strike was inspired after the College Employer Council denied the agreement OPSEU put forward, which focused on the problem of there being too many part-time workers and not fair pay for those workers. The proposition involved these main goals:
Equal wage between full-time faculty and contract faculty, where part-time faculty have a lower wage.
A 50-50 ratio of full-time to contract faculty. (The current average of contract faculty in Ontario Colleges is 70%. DC’s is 81%)
Increased job security for partial-load faculty who work on one-semester contracts
Academic freedom so faculty can have a voice in academic decision-making.
“[The part-time faculty] are getting a wage that is less than the bottom range of full-time faculty,” Tsagris explained.
According to Nicole Zwiers, member of the union bargaining team, “I think that philosophically, they won’t see what is to be seen…We brought to them the evidence we have, we brought to them the real stories of what’s happening in the classroom that indicate we need full time faculty for consistency and stability, and they’re refusing to go where we want them to go.”
When asked if having an equal ratio of part-time and full-time faculty would be costly, Zwiers said, “There are a couple of cost items. For example, asking there would be a faculty compliment of 50% full-time faculty to non-full time is an increase, because right now we have over 70% of those who are teaching our [students], so certainly paying someone full-time wages is more. We say it’s worth it [because] it’s quality education and the quality of our students, but also beyond that, [an] issue is, how do you manage all those contract faculty? You have to hire a lot of administrators.”
“We have reduced a lot of our negotiation that we wanted, including money. [For example, we wanted a raise] at 9% and now we are down to 6% over a three-year deal,” said Paul Wraight, a Durham College professor. “So we’re way behind in the money. The government said [college teachers] should be between high school teachers and professors in university and we aren’t.” Wraight was also a part of two of the strikes that have taken place at Durham College. This is his third and for the college, this is the fourth in its fifty years.
Only time will tell when either side will start to crack.