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All sides call for return to bargaining to end college strike

About 150 Confederation College teachers have been off the job for nearly two weeks, with not resumption of talks in sight.
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Jordan Pimentel
Jordan Pimentel (left) joins student and faculty from Confederation College walking the picket line on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com).

THUNDER BAY – Jordan Pimentel says he wouldn’t mind paying a little extra in tuition costs if it meant more of his Confederation College teachers earned full-time status.

The second-year human resource student said it’s important to he and his classmates that faculty at the college find stability, but also be able to offer help to students beyond the classroom. That’s not happening in many cases, as it stands.

“As students we need a 50-50 split due to the fact part-time faculty don’t have office hours. That’s not fair to students to ask professors questions and for them not to be there after class,” Pimentel said on Thursday, joining a few other students on a soggy and chilly picket line outside the school’s Thunder Bay campus.

“They’re only paid for the hours that they’re here. To have a 50-50 split would give us the opportunity to have office hours and to ask professors questions when we have questions.”

While hiking tuition wouldn’t be ideal – negotiators on the college side have estimated upping the number of full-time teachers to 50 per cent of the faculty count would cost the college system $250 million – Pimentel said upping college costs slightly would be worth it.

“For that 50-50 split, I don’t mind at all,” Pimentel said.

Regardless, like most students, he just wants the two sides to get back to the bargaining table. The College Employer Council walked away from talks on Oct. 15 and no new discussions are on the horizon.

“Get back to the table,” Pimentel said to both sides. “Let’s get a deal organized, let’s get a deal finalized and let’s get back to the classroom.”

Students aren’t the only ones frustrated by the lack of talks, which is threatening to drive the strike into its third week.

Confederation College president Jim Madder is eager to see negotiations resume.

“I’m incredibly disappointed and would love to see talks resume and people back to the table and this being resolved,” Madder said. “There’s no one who is happy with this situation, whether it’s our faculty or students and all the rest of our employees.

“You come by the college and it’s just way too quiet a place. We need to be supporting learning.”

Madder said school officials are working on contingency plans should the strike be prolonged, and they are discussing things such as classes remaining in session deeper into December and eliminating the spring break.

He added he’d love to have more full-time staff members, but it has to fit into the budget.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Does it depend on funding? Absolutely.”

Striking teachers say they’d like nothing more than to trade in their picket signs and return to the classroom.

“That’s where we all want to be,” said Kim Ducharme, a professor in the Confederation College child and youth program and a member of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union CAAT-A division.

“The students are well-versed on the fact that the CEC is not at the table and has been missing from negotiations this whole time.”

OPSEU members plan to join forces on Friday morning in front of the government building on James Street commonly known as Mini Queen’s Park.