Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Strike by Ontario College Teachers

Well it’s about time. That’s all we can say of the news that the two sides in the strike by Ontario college teachers are set to resume talks tomorrow.

It’s just too bad that they couldn’t have come to their senses a couple of weeks earlier and headed off a destructive walkout that has punished the very students that the teachers said they were trying to help with their job action.

If they were really concerned about their students the teachers wouldn’t have waited until the final weeks of the curriculum to hit the bricks.

As Sun columnist Christina Blizzard pointed out in yesterday’s paper, the strike has made a mockery of everything students have been told about a college education.

On the one hand, wrote Blizzard, “we tell them to get an education. Work hard. Suck up those tuition hikes. Pay your own way. Get a summer job to pay for your college fees.

“And what do we do? We sit back and watch as a strike of college professors systematically removes (a) their ability to work hard; (b) their ability to get a summer job; and (c) their ability to afford a college education in the future.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around in the college teachers’ strike.

The administrators clearly didn’t do enough either to avert the walkout or to get back to the bargaining table once the strike began March 7.

Instead they issued vague promises — details promised later this week — saying that no student would suffer as a result of the labour dispute.

Here’s a news flash. The students have already suffered, and will continue to be punished every day that there is no settlement in the dispute.

They have had to put summer employment plans on hold, fret over alternative housing arrangements should classes be extended into May and complete assignments without feedback or assistance from their teachers.

Many don’t know yet if they’ll be able to graduate, and receive the diploma for which they have worked so hard; the document that will allow them to enter the world of employment.

As the students pointed out during noisy protests last week, they have been used as pawns in the contract dispute, and both sides should be ashamed of themselves for that.

Ted Montgomery, the union’s negotiator, says he’s “optimistic” that talks are resuming but says the colleges have to put something better on the table before a deal can be reached. “Until something actually changes and until something better is on the table we’re not sure there is a settlement, but we hope we’re on the right path.”

Joy Warkentin, chairwoman of the college council’s bargaining team says the schools are “eager” to negotiate a settlement and get students back in class. However, she acknowledges that both sides are about $200 million apart in their demands, so there’s lots of work to do.

Not exactly an auspicious start to the negotiations. If the two sides can’t reach a quick settlement, Colleges Minister Chris Bentley ought to step in and order the teachers back. The students can’t afford another week of rhetoric.

And another thing ...

The debate over the Carp Rd. landfill has taken an ugly turn with news that a local realty company is suing the city, Waste Management and the province for $30 million because land it owns near the site is “heavily contaminated.”

Metcalfe Realty Co. added its voice to the dispute that has local residents demanding the dump be shut down. So far, though, we’re waiting for a workable alternative to dispose of 1,000 or so tonnes of garbage a day.


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