While I know that Richard is the official ”Global Trends” guy around here, I hope that he won’t mind my pointing one out; if not a trend, a global synchronicity at least. In two of the world’s great cities – Toronto and Rome – disagreements in educational policy have led to strike situations.
In Toronto, from the Globe and Mail:
The campus was a ghost town yesterday, the first day of the strike by contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate students, with classes for more than 50,000 students cancelled and pickets letting cars onto university grounds only every few minutes.
There are no plans to resume negotiations.
Christina Rousseau, chair of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903, said the striking workers are waiting for a signal from university administrators that they are ready to return to talks.
“Right now the ball is in their court,” she said. “We feel it is their turn to make a move.”
The university has offered a 9.25-per-cent wage increase over three years. A university spokesman said the administration is willing to go to binding arbitration.
The workers have asked for a two-year contract with a wage increase of 11 per cent over that period. The demand for a two-year deal is part of a broader strategy by CUPE Ontario to co-ordinate bargaining on all Ontario campuses in order to gain leverage at the negotiating table.
And in Rome from the BBC:
Sleeping bags in lecture theatres, lessons in parks, people wearing plasters on their faces. They are just some of the ingredients in Italy’s hugely divisive row over education. The sleeping bags are being used by students, who have taken over a number of buildings. Lessons in some places are being held in parks, as classrooms are occupied, and the plasters are the symbolic sign of the “cuts” the students and staff are protesting against.
But these are not just isolated protests by a few disgruntled hardliners. A number of recent marches in Rome have attracted up to half a million demonstrators. Seasoned Italian commentators say they are the biggest in 15 years.
The protests are not just for university students. Secondary school teachers and pupils are also on the streets, as their slice of the education budget comes under threat as well. The government is pushing its reforms because it believes universities and schools are inefficient and producing lacklustre results.
I also did a little bit of Facebook reconnaissance and found popular groups for and against the strike in Toronto, while Italy Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini’s page has been flooded with comments from young people on the situation.
While both are complex and ultimately different situations, one of the few comparables is popular support: In Rome it is overwhelming, while in Toronto it’s very divided. With starkly different political climates, I can’t speak on how well this bodes for either side, but it will be interesting to see how both situations are resolved. They each represent what the prospective futures of significant numbers of young people within their respective regions will be like. In turn, this will ultimately affect the overall prosperity of the regions.
And now, as always, some music.