Two hundred and eighty faculty at Oshawa’s University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) have been on strike since Feb. 10, after years of class size and workload increases.

UOIT has the second-highest faculty-to-student ratios in Canada. Since 2016, the university has increased its reported share of large classes in first and fourth year by over 30 per cent. The number of classes with 250 or more students has also quadrupled.

As well, the UOIT Faculty Association says the university doesn’t consider research or supervision “teaching”. For its members, the union notes, that “limits our ability to provide research positions and experiential learning opportunities to our students as most of our time is taken by teaching courses.” 

This clearly makes education worse. Yet, the administration refuses to commit to shrink class sizes and hire more teaching assistants, declaring publicly that “several current demands tabled by the Faculty Association bargaining team simply cannot be met.”

The administration’s offer was rejected by 80 per cent of the local’s membership. Yet, on Feb. 8, it still refused to budge, ahead of the strike deadline.

Instead, the administration revoked the faculty’s access to its course management system, blocking communication between them and students. The university has also kept lectures, labs and tutorials taught by sessional employees and teaching assistants operating, telling students to “arrive early” to cross picket lines. 

In late December, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario announced it “stands with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) as they bargain for better working conditions.”

All efforts to play students against faculty must be opposed. The union’s working conditions, especially when it comes to class sizes, are students’ learning conditions. The same administration hiking tuition fees and undermining the quality of education is increasing faculty workloads and eroding their job security.

The erosion of working conditions and rising tuition fees are not accidental. Both reflect efforts by governments, Liberal and Tory, to make workers and youth live with less. The labour movement and the student movement must offer the UOIT faculty their full support to defend education and workers’ rights.

Victory to the faculty!

Picket lines mean do not cross!