This is a Financial website, so this post might seem a little off topic.  It is not.  It is about personal income and expense, the health of the economy and financial prudence.

Most people might not know that there will be a Strike Vote by Ontario College Professors this month.  If you’re not a professor you might not care.  That would be a big mistake.  Especially if you have school age children or grandchildren.  Because this is about their future.  Their ability to find and KEEP a good job.  Respect for the contribution of Full Time Professors, and respect and fair pay for the part time instructors.

It might be worth noting that College Professors are NOT Part of the Ontario Teachers Union.  We belong to OPSEU.  I am not a “Union” type person.  I got into teaching after 30 years in industry, where part of my job was technical training.  I started as a part time instructor.  I was lucky enough to have gotten a fulltime position.  I have been a full time Professor for 10 years.

The College today is a completely different place than it was 11 years ago.  When I started, the Professors were an integral part of the college.  We helped review resumes of part time staff, to make sure we got the most competent instructor’s, we were consulted on equipment purchases, we developed courses based on what industry and the students needed.  We had some control over class size, so that we could maintain Safety and maximize learning.

Part time instructors were paid at a rate that reflected their qualifications, and made the time they took from their regular jobs, worthwhile.  Good part time instructors had a reasonable expectation that if a fulltime position can up, they would be considered.  At that time, Fulltime professors outnumbered part time instructors by a wide margin.

In general, we all felt part of the “team” and we really worked together as a team.  The thrust of the day was “Student Centered Learning”.  I truly felt comfortable that the emphasis was on the students getting the very best education possible.  Each year we turned out students who were better than the year before.  Even industry was saying that our students were job ready.  Who would not want to be part of that system?  You felt proud going to work every day. Fast forward to today.

Well the “Team” no longer exists.  The ranks of fulltime Professors has been decimated by early retirement incentives and next to no hiring of new fulltime Professors.  Part time staff who now get paid less than half of what they did 4 years ago, out number Professors by ratios greater than 2:1. Class sizes have gone from 15-18 students to 25 plus.

Last September on the first day of class, I had 25 students in a class set up for 20.  That made for a very tense situation.  The program coordinator had tried to invite the new part time staff to an orientation meeting just days before class started, but couldn’t, because he was not given the names or email addresses of the part timers.

By the 4th week of classes 2 of the Part time instructors had quit.  It was not worth the hassle.  (Students missed class till a replacement was found.)  The list could go on but I think you get the picture.  By the way, the administration was fully aware of these situations.  They created them.

We try and teach our students that you should learn from your mistakes, and not repeat them.  The students seem to learn it, but I’m not so sure about the administration.

Who is suffering?  The students of course. They are not getting the quality of education that they NEED.  The Parents who are paying the tuition, expecting their children to get the education that will find them, and KEEP them, a good job.   The Part time instructors who are now paid half as much, for doing more work.  Canadian industry because they are not getting the quality of employee they need to be competitive.  The Fulltime Professors because, we are the front line that bears the brunt of the problems, and are deemed expensive overhead.

Admiration only deals with students at Orientation, where they welcome them to this broken system, and at graduation, where they take credit for the work done by the fulltime professors and part time instructors who turn out decent students in spite of all the problems.

The administration has sent out a news release that has offered some monetary improvements for full time staff.  (The few of us left) In the letter they made it clear that this is a take it or leave it offer.  They even say that there is no room for negotiation.  There is no addressing anything about cooperative (Collegial) working together.  There is nothing on fair pay for the work the part time instructors do, nothing to address class size, nothing about anything else (non monetary) the union is suggesting.

In the college’s letter, they offer a carrot and a stick.  If we accept their offer, we get a bribe.  A retroactive payment of $800.00 (Before Income tax and deductions) and raises that barely match the rate of inflation.  Unless the raise is higher than inflation, the net result in money you actually have to spend, is zero.  So, it is really not a raise.

The stick is, that if we don’t accept, they will make us go on strike, where we loose money.  No path to a negotiated settlement in either the carrot or the stick.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being bribed or threatened.  What they hope will happen is that they scare the fulltime professors with loss (the greatest human fear) and that the part time staff just don’t vote. Negotiating a fair compromise is just not an option they are offering.

So, the decision is yours.  Don’t vote, or vote no strike, and we are stuck with the present system that looks like it will get worse.  Or Vote Yes, I am willing to try and fix a broken system.  This vote is really not a vote to strike or not.  Voting Yes is like the carrot and the stick the colleges have offered us.  The carrot is, negotiate in good faith about all our issues; avoiding a strike, because we are not rolling over on these issues.  Or the stick.  We are serious about changes, so if you don’t negotiate, we strike and everybody looses, especially the students.  The choice is as much in the hands of the college as in ours.

I thought about not voting, or voting NO.  I’m ready to retire soon, so why care?  Then I look at my grandchildren.  What are their chances for financial success if I don’t stand up for the repair of a broken system.  (It just takes a few easy changes/political will to fix.)  Is my grandchildren’s future worth a paycheque or 3?  For me the answer is a resounding YES!  Even if it means doing something I swore I would NEVER do.  Walk a picket line.

The choice is yours.

Eric Tippelt