Another looming campus strike, another Facebook backlash.
As 24 community colleges brace for a possible teachers’ walkout in January, more than 11,500 students are expressing their fear and anger via the Facebook website, as York University students did last year during their 12-week shutdown.
“We don’t want a strike to happen. My sister went to York last year and lost out on a summer job because of that strike," said Humber College’s Graeme McNaughton, who created the Facebook group Ontario College Students Against A Strike.
Two days of talks ended Tuesday between Colleges Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, with no plans to resume.
The union, which acts for 9,000 full-time teachers, counsellors and librarians, has set a strike vote for Jan. 13.
A petition on the Facebook group page has collected more than 1,800 signatures calling on both sides to reach a deal without stoppages.
In Facebook discussions, students from Toronto to Sudbury are fretting about how a strike could affect their student loans — “I will lose my apartment where me, my two cats and three-month-old son are living," worries one — as well as graduation dates and retraining for laid-off workers.
“We’re starting to have déjà vu from the last strike, when upset students would call us at 4 a.m.” said Tyler Charlebois at the 200,000-strong College Student Alliance.
“With government retraining programs underway at many colleges, a strike could put serious stress on Ontario’s economic recovery.”
The union says it is fighting for academic freedom and more teacher control of workloads, but it became even more upset in November when the colleges exercised a new right to impose a contract after months of talks failed.
It provides an eight per cent raise over four years. The union wants seven and a half per cent over three years.
“I don't blame students for being angry and frustrated,” said union negotiator Ted Montgomery.
“But we don’t want to go on strike. We’re hoping for a settlement."
Ditto, says Rob Savage at Colleges Ontario. “We hope we can negotiate a deal.”