On March 18, 2019, OPSEU sent the following email to all members in the College Support and College Faculty Divisions:
On Wednesday, March 20 students will walk out of class to protest the Ford government’s attacks on students and the organizations that represent them. OPSEU stands with students in their opposition to the Ford government’s disastrous plan for post-secondary education.
The chronic underfunding of our colleges has been a crisis in the making for many years now. Per-student funding is the lowest in Canada. Tuition fees have skyrocketed and students are burdened with crushing levels of debt.
With its actions, the Ford government has not fixed the crisis but made it worse. Much worse.
The government’s cuts to OSAP will cause real harm to college students, 70 per cent of whom are OSAP recipients. A recent analysis of government data identified the top 10 post-secondary institutions with the highest proportion of full-time students granted free tuition in 2017-18. All 10 were colleges. As of the coming school year, all OSAP-eligible students will have to take a portion of their funding in loans, thereby increasing students’ debt levels. The government’s 10 per cent cut to tuition will not make up for the shift from non-repayable grants to loans. Even with this reduction, tuition fees remain the highest in the country.
The Ford government’s changes have made post-secondary education more expensive and less accessible, especially for mature students, students with families, and students from lower-income backgrounds.
The government is reducing tuition fees without providing an increase to colleges’ operating grants to make up for the $80-million shortfall in revenue. The result will be overcrowded classrooms, fewer services and more precarious work. Three-quarters of faculty and more than half of support staff in the colleges work part-time or on short-term contracts.
The Ford government’s decision to make some student fees optional will have the effect of de-funding the very organizations that stand up for post-secondary education – democratically elected student unions and associations. De-funding student unions will put critical frontline services like emergency food banks, programs for vulnerable students, peer support, and student newspapers at risk of closure. Ford’s agenda is to shut down supports for marginalized students and silence the voices of anyone who disagrees with him. This attack on the democratic right of students to organize must be challenged.
OPSEU encourages members to show their support for the walkout by students:
- On your break, join the walkout and participate in any meet-up planned at your college.
- Go to the Facebook page “Student Walk Out – Débrayage des étudiantes et étudiants” by CFS Ontario/FCEE Ontario – Toronto for a list of the participating colleges and universities.
- Email your MPP.
- Accommodate any students participating in the walkout.
- Discuss these issues with students.
OPSEU represents 50,000 post-secondary workers provincewide, including support staff and faculty at the colleges. Half of our newest members in the colleges are student workers. We also represent staff at some student associations. We have a big stake in this fight. It’s time to push back against Ford’s damaging agenda for post-secondary education.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
RM Kennedy, OPSEU College Faculty Division Chair
Janice Hagan, OPSEU College Support Division Chair