This strike produced, scripted, and choreographed by …

| 30/10/2017

This strike has been produced, scripted, orchestrated and choreographed by the employer – which is the Government of Ontario through an allegedly arm’s length institution called the College Employer Council. This body has refused even to entertain discussion of matters of “academic freedom,” “employee equity,” “college governance” and the quality of education. It prefers to talk only about money – a matter that could easily be resolved.

The fundamental issue is the nature of the college system. Colleges now depend on a labour process in which 75% of the faculty are “precarious” workers – denied adequate resources, underpaid and overworked, and subject to immediate dismissal without cause by local college management. This latter constant threat of job loss for making even an off-hand remark in a corridor that comes to the attention of (and for any reason annoys) the authorities not only puts the “contingent” faculty member at risk, but strikes at the heart of any semblance or illusion of academic integrity – itself based on the foundation of academic freedom.

The colleges once embraced an “industrial” model in which faculty were academic assembly line workers in what the late historian David Noble famously called “digital diploma mills.” They have now adjusted to the 21st-century and have adopted the discount department store business model in which associated professors are transformed into the academic equivalent of Walmart associates.

Absent an employer willing to negotiate in good faith, college faculty are compelled to strike in support of their students, their colleges and the society they serve. Nothing less than a commitment to the aforementioned fundamentals of academic freedom, employee equity, college governance and the quality of education will do.

The Ontario college system has been damaged or broken for decades. Ontario government reports from as early as 1984 have outlined the problems in top-down, authoritarian and ultimately dysfunctional managerial practices. Yet, even a provincial mandate to enact “participative management” in the early 1990s has been subverted and largely destroyed by the very administrators it was designed to keep under control.

Moreover, Bill 148, which the Ontario government is proposing to provide equal pay for work of equal value would go a long way toward meeting faculty demands for employment equity. By stonewalling on this and other issues, however, the employer has plunged the colleges into an unnecessary work stoppage. It is now up to Kathleen Wynne and her associates to bring their merry minions of mendacity to heel and return them to the bargaining table with instructions to negotiate in good faith, thus improving the possibility of achieving results that are essential to the maintenance and future improvement of any colleges worthy of the name.

 

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Category: On The Line

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