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Int'l students cannot work full-time during Canada's teacher strike

Antonn Brown

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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Dear Mr Brown,

Thank you so much for your assistance with enrolment into Centennial College and obtaining the study and work permits. However, the professors are currently on strike so I want to know if I can start working full-time, and if this will affect my ability to stay in Canada after my studies.

— MW

Dear MW:

Approximately 12,200 Ontario College Faculty (college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians) at 24 colleges went on strike Sunday night after the College Employer Council (CEC), which represents college management, rejected the final offer from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) that represents the faculty. As a result, classes have been cancelled for more than 500,000 full-time and part-time students.

A strike is a legal work stoppage, which is a legitimate part of the labour negotiation process. It can only occur with proper notice and is governed by labour laws.

When workers walk off the job, they normally form a picket line at the entrance of the employer's property in a show of solidarity to peacefully pressure management to negotiate working conditions and wages. In this case, faculty at the strike will likely hold signs and form a picket line at the entrances to the college.

However, irrespective of this, students will be able to cross the picket line and access campus services.

The issues

The main issues for OPSEU are:

• A reduction in the percentage of part-time instructors. Their target is for part-time staff to comprise only half of college faculty. Over the last decade, the number of part-time teachers has grown by 40 per cent, while the full-time positions have gone up by less than 20 per cent. In total, part-time staff make up 70 per cent of all college teachers.

• Job security. The goal is for instructors to be hired based on their seniority and experience, and new teachers should only be considered if current qualified instructors turn down an opening.

• Academic freedom. The goal is to provide faculty a stronger voice in academic decision-making.

The main issues for CEC are:

• The avoidance of staffing ratios and wage increases would add more than $1 billion in costs over three years.

• Placing focus on the number of teaching hours, rather than the number of teachers. By that measure, half of all teaching is already done by full-time professors, while only 30 per cent is done by contract instructors.

On the one hand, full-time professors may start at roughly $60,000 a year and can see their salary increase to $106,000 over time. While, on the other hand, partial-load employees, who teach between six to 12 hours a week, can make between $48 and $140 an hour depending on their education and experience.

The union has asked for a raise of nine per cent over three years, which the colleges say is out of line with other contract settlements in the public sector. Instead, they have offered 7.75 per cent over four years with a new maximum salary cap of approximately $115,000.

OPSEU has a strike fund of $72 million and is prepared for a protracted strike. The province of Ontario has only legislated college teachers back to work once during the three strikes in the sector over 50 years, which kept students out of class for 18 days. However, it is important to note that no student has ever lost a school year due to a strike.

College services

Tens of thousands of students have signed a petition asking for fee refunds of $40 for each day that the strike is on. However, the Government has said that it hopes a short strike will minimise lost class time and no fee refunds will be necessary.

Colleges will remain open during the strike, and remain committed to providing the education that the students have paid for, although all full-time classes (day, evening and weekend) have stopped. Students are encouraged to continue to access course materials and other related materials throughout the strike.

International students can get counselling services through the International Student Support Programme. Also, international students will be able to extend their study permits. However, the strike is not deemed to be an official break in the student programme. As such, international students are not permitted to work full-time. The only option is to work part-time, up to 20 hours per week as you would during the regular academic term. Therefore, as long as you continue your studies, you will be fine with regards to your path to stay in Canada.

Please visit JAMAICA2CANADA.COM for additional information on Canadian Permanent Residence programmes, including Express Entry, The Study & Work programme Visas or Appeals, etc.

Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC, is an immigration counsel and an accredited Canadian education agent of JAMAICA2CANADA.COM — a Canadian immigration & education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to jamaica2canada@gmail.com .

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