10/16/2017 12:44 EDT | Updated 10/16/2017 12:48 EDT

Ontario College Strike: Petition Calls For Tuition Refund For Affected Students

More than 12,000 faculty members have gone on strike.

Cole Burston/The Canadian Press
Striking faculty members stand on the picket line outside of Humber College in Toronto on Oct. 16, 2017.

A petition signed by more than 43,000 people is calling for a tuition refund for Ontario college students who will be affected by a faculty strike.

More than 12,000 employees at 24 colleges in the province went on strike late Sunday. The Ontario Public Services Employees Union, which was negotiating on behalf of faculty, said there was "nothing more" coming from the College Employer Council, which bargains for the colleges.

More than 500,000 students will be affected by the action.

Administrators continue to earn their comfortable salaries even if classrooms are empty.

The petition, hosted on and started before the strike, needs 50,000 signatures before it is delivered to the "decision makers," which include the two bargaining sides as well as Ontario's education minister.

One of the organizers of the petition told CBC News the petition is meant to send a "clear message" to colleges and their faculty members.

"It is our tuition money that you are fighting over," Humber College student Amir Allana said.

"Get back to the bargaining table, compromise and figure it out. Or we want our money back."

The Canadian Press
Faculty at 24 Ontario colleges have gone on strike, a move that will affect more than 500,000 students.

The petition says the schools' administrations have nothing to lose in the strike.

"Administrators continue to earn their comfortable salaries even if classrooms are empty," the organizers wrote.

"It's a public system, therefore students can't really 'take their business elsewhere.'"

One of OPSEU's proposals during negotiations called for the number of full-time faculty to match the number of faculty members on contract. It also called for improvements in job security and for faculty to have a stronger voice in academic decision making.

The council said the demands would have added more than $250 million in annual costs.

Students just want to be in school: organizer

Using an average tuition of $5,000 per academic year, the petition estimates that each full-time student should be reimbursed $30 a day in the event of a strike. Part-time students should receive $20 per day, it said.

Get back to the bargaining table, compromise and figure it out. Or we want our money back.

Greg Kung, Allana's classmate and fellow petition organizer, told the Toronto Star they started the petition because they don't want their education to be affected.

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."

Students are airing their frustration with the strike on Twitter by using the #wepaytolearn hashtag, which organizers and supporters are promoting.

"If the two bargaining teams do not consider our educational and employment prospects as motive enough to reach an agreement," the petition concludes, "​​​​then perhaps a justifiable hit to the colleges' bottom line will."

With files from The Canadian Press

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