Faculty at the college in Thunder Bay, as well as several satellite campuses in northwestern Ontario, are among more than 12,000 staff from 24 Ontario public colleges who walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. Monday, after talks with the College Employer Council - which represents the colleges - failed to produce a new collective bargaining agreement.
Lana-Lee Hardacre, OPSEU Local 237 president, said 470 full-time faculty across Conestoga College's eight campuses, including in Guelph. "They are either partial-load or part-time".
"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.
Both sides said they regret the strike throws students into limbo and wondered when they will return to classes. "We would rather be in the classroom with our students. I think there is a much greater moral responsibility to be democratic and to be open and transparent", he said.
"Del Missier told the media that the CEC's, "... final offer is comparable to, or better than, recent public-sector settlements with teachers, college support staff, hospital professionals, and Ontario public servants".
"None of our members want to be out here on strike", he said.
The chair of OPSEU's bargaining team JP Hornick stated that the union's final offer was the "bare minimum we need to ensure quality education for students and treat contract faculty fairly".
"But it's really hard right now to figure out what it looks like because a return to work scenario or memo which is found to occur at the end of the strike, will to a major extent dictate how we approach that", Madder said.
Because they are not paid for work outside the classroom, Hardacre said partial-load faculty are ill-prepared to support students in general, as well as students with additional needs and worldwide students.
The members of the union representing faculty members including counsellors, instructors, librarians and professors walked off the job to protest the lack of equality among its members.
All college facilities will remain open and most services will remain available, including: athletics and recreational programming; bookstore; child care centres; computer labs; Conestoga career centres; cocurricular programming; co-op, career & practicum services; student services; food services; health sciences labs - Cowan Health Sciences Centre; global student support services; library services; registrar's office and student financial services; student engagement programming and services; student success services; testing and assessment services; and varsity sports.
He said students "really want just to be in school, we paid for this, we put in time and effort and we really want to succeed". But the college will remain open with facilities including the computer lab, library, food services and athletic centre in full operation.
"I am not suggesting that's an ideal scenario, but they don't have to sit at home watching TV all day".