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Radical cuts to teaching, support positions will hurt college students

Toronto – Radical proposals in a leaked PricewaterhouseCooper report, including slashing thousands of faculty and support staff jobs, will hurt college students, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents more than 20,000 college workers.

The chair of OPSEU’s College Academic Division, RM Kennedy, said the report’s authors ignored the most important reason for colleges’ dire financial situation: severe underfunding.

“This report fails to give sufficient attention to the fact that Ontario’s colleges receive the lowest per-student funding of any province,” said Kennedy. “While the report suggests several combinations of solutions, it buries the simple fact that the shortfall could be closed by a mere 2.1-per-cent annual increase in provincial funding.

“We have one of the strongest provincial economies across the country, and yet the government is failing to use this opportunity to invest in our future success. Instead, while per-student tuition revenue is up 56 per cent over the last six years, provincial funding is down 10 per cent over the same period.”

Marilou Martin, chair of OPSEU’s College Support Division, suggested that the authors’ focus on the perspective of executives led to biased results.

“Had the authors bothered to ask staff, we would have recommended a number of ways to improve services and control costs at the same time,” said Martin. “These include reducing the incredible growth in administration positions, which are up 77 per cent since 2002-03, and ending expensive legal attempts to prevent part-time workers from unionizing.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the report represents a missed opportunity to involve staff, faculty and students in improving Ontario colleges.

“Our members know what works and what doesn’t work,” said Thomas. “These colleges are simply too important to Ontario’s economy to mess around with. They need predictable, stable, year-over-year increases in funding, and those funds need to go to the front lines so students and communities see real results.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; RM Kennedy, 416-346-8382; Marilou Martin, 416-550-0160