The Ontario Community College Strike

There was considerable media scrutiny of the five-week long strike by Ontario community college faculty.  The conditions for this work stoppage had been gestating for many years, if not decades.  There is huge amount of precarious employment in higher education, especially at community colleges.  The overwhelming majority of teaching is done by instructors who are making, at best, $2000 to $3000 per course.  At the same time, the number of full-time administrators has ballooned across higher education as described in this recent article in The Guardian    There are some compelling reasons for the widespread increase in administrative personnel — especially the proliferation of functions pertaining to student services and regulatory compliance.  However, the increase in administrators has far exceeded growth in demand for such services.  We now have a situation whereby administration exists essentially for itself, which is the same as managerialism in in the private sector.

It is understandable that Ontario community college students are frustrated with what happened over the past five weeks.  Students do not have a full inkling of what goes on inside a higher education institution any more than someone who regularly visits a hospital would be able to grasp the wider problems facing the health care system.  What they need to know is that they have very high odds of paying full tuition to then be taught by someone who is earning wages that puts him/her at or below the poverty line.  The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) took a principled stand in this struggle.  Time will tell if the union made lasting progress with turning back precarious work.

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