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Union applauds move to make colleges help students

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Toronto – Striking Ontario college faculty are applauding a move by Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews that will make the colleges put the money saved as a result of the strike into a special fund for students. Matthews announced the plan late Friday.

“What Minister Matthews has done is exactly what faculty were asking for in the petition we launched earlier this week,” said JP Hornick, chair of the faculty bargaining team for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). “Anything that will help students get through this difficult time is more than welcome, and we thank the minister for moving ahead with it.”

More than 12,000 college faculty at 24 public colleges went on strike October 16. The union is calling for job security and better wages for contract faculty, more full-time jobs, and a greater say for faculty in academic decisions. The bargaining team is calling on faculty to reject a concession-filled offer in voting scheduled for next week.

“Our students come to college so they can get good jobs when they leave,” Hornick said. “We would not be doing our duty to them if we didn’t show that we will stand up for good jobs for the professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians who are helping them learn.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the government’s plan to treat students fairly should be matched by moves by the colleges to treat faculty fairly.

“It’s important to remember that the fund the minister has announced is being paid for by faculty, not by the colleges,” he said. “I can’t see why the colleges still refuse to bargain, still refuse to agree to no-cost items, and insist on clawing money out of the classroom through their demands for concessions.

“If the minister can tell the colleges how to spend the money they’ve saved, she can tell them how to bargain fairly as well,” he said. “I encourage her to do so this weekend.”

For more information: JP Hornick, 416-806-9526; Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Mona Chevalier, OPSEU college faculty bargaining team (French only)