Our Universities Work Because We Do:
Speaking Notes on Ontarios Bill 132
On October 19, 2000, the Conservative government of Mike Harris introduced Bill 132 into the Ontario Legislature. This proposed legislation would:
- introduce private for-profit universities into Ontario;
- allow the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to delegate important responsibilities to an administrative board;
- clear the way for a fundamental restructuring of colleges and universities;
- allow inspectors a wide range of powers to investigate the administration of awards, grants and student loans;
- criminalize students whose T4 returns and OSAP forms do not match.
CUPE sees Bill 132 as a serious threat to working people in Ontario. It will entrench a two-tiered post-secondary education system according to the demands of corporations.
As University workers, CUPE members see Bill 132 as part of a concerted effort on the part of the government and corporations to:
- lower our wages;
- undermine our working conditions;
- increase the number of temporary workers who have few benefits and insecure contracts;
- eliminate unions in the new institutions;
- move our jobs in public institutions to non-union contractors.
Yet, the threat is not just to us in our workplaces.
The Harris government is very clear about its goals for the restructuring of the PSE system.
After all, the private post-secondary experience is not meant to contribute to society, but to the economy.
The Harris agenda does not acknowledge that universities and colleges are:
- communities of learning;
- sites for the production of knowledge;
- workplaces as well.
They are not corporate training centres.
II. The Path to Privatization
Bill 132 introduces private universities, but we are already well down the path to privatization.
We continue to fight-back against these efforts at privatization, but it is not an easy struggle.
We are united in the conviction that Our Universities Work Because We Do.
III. Bill 132: Our Analysis
Bill 132 must be rejected because a for-profit education will be expensive, anti-union and business-driven.
We have seen much of the privatization agenda already, but Bill 132 will legitimize the changes already made, institutionalize them and push the process even further.
From our perspective, there are ten important issues to address.
- Bill 132 permits corporations to apply to open private for-profit PSE institutions.
- Once private institutions are part of the PSE system, international trade laws would prevent Ontario from discriminating against foreign corporations and keeping them out.
- Bill 132 allows the Minister to delegate important public responsibilities to an un-elected Board.
- Contrary to the governments assertion, the proposed legislation does not prevent public resources being used by new private institutions.
- Bill 132 consolidates a process of streaming students that is now begun in secondary school.
- It deflects attention away from accessibility issues by introducing inspectors to monitor PSE institutions.
- At the same time, it turns low-income students into criminals for violating the rules regarding student loans.
- Bill 132 entrenches a corporate-driven definition of quality into the PSE system.
- It promotes a hierarchy of institutions.
- It allows PSE administrators to contemplate further job reductions and cutbacks to service delivery.
IV. Our Demands
- CUPE demands that our work be recognized for its contribution to the university. As part-time sessionals and TAs, we teach 40% of the courses in many institutions. As service workers, we keep the university running.
CUPE demands that our collective rights be respected, an end to precarious work, benefits for ourselves and our families, a living wage and good working conditions.
- CUPE demands that corporations pay their fair share of taxes in support of the public good.
CUPE demands that the struggles of working people inform the research agenda of our post-secondary education institutions.Our needs, rather than corporate needs, ought to shape the kinds of knowledge produced there.
- CUPE demands that public investments be protected and that unsafe workplaces get the resources necessary for their long-term upkeep.
- CUPE demands full disclosure of efforts to bring lease-back arrangements to our colleges and universities. We also demand full accountability for the gap between projected and actual costs of these operations.
- CUPE demands the end to long-term leases that result in public subsidies for private corporations.
- CUPE demands that that the hollowing out of our public post-secondary institutions be halted. The special interests of corporations are no substitute for the public interest.
- CUPE demands that the elitist Harvard model be absolutely rejected.
- CUPE demands an end to the chipping away of our public education system.
CUPE demands that students be permitted to study in an environment not defined by the market.
Rather than fast-food franchises, advertisements in the toilet stalls, corporate sponsored classrooms, curriculum shaped by the common sense of business,
for-profit residences, corporate-run labs, dangerous infrastructure, buildings cleaned half as often as they should be, re-run television courses,
on-line teaching assistants half way around the world,
CUPE believes all students are entitled to a high-quality, public education system organized around the principles of social solidarity.
- CUPE demands that our public institutions not be privatized.
CUPE demands public re-investment of the budget surplus in our post-secondary educational institutions.
- CUPE demands that private for-profit post-secondary institutions be absolutely rejected. We believe the people of Ontario deserve much better than this.
CUPEs position is that quality education is advanced through the delivery of public services. CUPE members deserve good wages and benefits with decent working conditions, respect for our right to fair representation, the right to bargain and organize collectively.
Our rights will be undermined should private universities open in an anti-union environment. So too will employers attempt to undermine these rights in public universities through further contracting-out and privatization of services.
As citizens, we fought for our rights to public education. A private educational system is unfair to ordinary Canadians.
As workers, we need secure employment, as well as, good wages and working conditions in our university workplaces. Under funding allows corporations to turn our jobs into short-term contracts with fewer benefits for families increased workload lower-pay and a lot less security, ourselves.
As parents, we want our children to have the best our society can offer them. As students, we want an affordable educational system where we will find the space to think critically.
Corporations have put their money and influence to work in transforming post-secondary education so those students learn what corporate sponsors want them to learn. As CUPE members, we deserve much more.
We would like to initiate a public discussion of what a union perspective on best practices might look like in Ontarios universities and colleges.
We want an educational system that is fully accessible, portable, of high quality, affordable and publicly administered.
We want a legislation that guarantees access, guarantees academic freedom, and establishes a democratic regulation of the post-secondary education system.
At CUPE, we embrace a solidaristic vision of society in which the diversity of the whole community is respected.
The most important people in Canada do not sit as directors on multi-national corporations. Neither are the people of Canada simply taxpayers.
We are citizens and we demand the fulfillment of our rights as citizens, including the right to a fully accountable education system created in the public interest.
As CUPE members, as citizens, as university workers, as students and as parents, we intend to make this provincial government accountable to the whole community, not just a privileged class of profiteers.