Strike affects a half-million college students

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The faculty of St. Lawrence College took to the streets on Monday after contract negotiations broke down.

This morning, at one minute after midnight, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union began strike action at St Clair College and all other Ontario community colleges.

Students say they're caught in the middle and they're the ones with the most to lose. "I have a scholarship and I'm just here for another month. I know the professors aren't happy with it".

As of Monday at 12:01 a.m. faculty from 24 colleges across the province were officially on strike.

OPSEU, the union representing faculty members at 24 colleges says one of the major sticking points is job security. While classes for full- and part-time students have been suspended, those for Faculty of Continuing and Professional Studies students will proceed as scheduled, according to Sheridan College.

"The colleges' final offer is responsive to what we have heard at the bargaining table and fair to our faculty", he said. The petition has collected more than 46,000 signatures. Another proposal was more academic freedom to give faculty a stronger voice in academic decision-making. But that could be a problem for some students. "So, I'm a little bit miffed, for lack of a better word". "I'm not sure what I'm going to do if that happens".

Betcher added he is also anxious he won't be able to achieve all his goals in his classes this semester because of the lost time.

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Operations at Confederation College continue as normal, with slight changes to operating hours for some services.

The College Employer Council, which bargains on behalf of all the colleges, called the strike "completely unnecessary" and unfair to hundreds of thousands of college students.

"If the colleges approach the mediator, or us, and say they're finally willing to start talking then we would be at that table in a heartbeat", she said.

Any students with questions are welcomed to come to the SUCCI office or consult the student portal online that includes information about the strike and what resources are available to them. "I felt I had to come out and talk to them and recognize this a hard situation", he said.

"Students' want to learn". There was no picket line and - for the most part - the campus was quiet. People are reminded to be careful when driving near the picket line.

The bulk of Confederation's 150 affected faculty members are based at the Thunder Bay campus; there are a handful located in the college's regional campuses, and a rotating picket line is planned for those locations, Ward said. "The college council has essentially just refused to negotiate".