Bill Kelly: 5 weeks Ontario community college students will never get back

Kathleen Wynne

College Classes to Resume This Week

After three days of debate, Liberal government and Progressive Conservative MPPs joined forces Sunday to pass legislation sending strike college teachers - and their students - back to class over NDP objections.

The province recently announced that the dedicated student hardship fund with net savings from the strike will in fact assist students who went through any financial hardship as a result of the strike.

Simply put, there were no winners here.

The labour dispute has shuttered Ontario's 24 colleges - including Brockville's St. Lawrence College campus - since October 15 and has kept 900 local students out of class.

The first year Entrepreneurial Business student at Georgian College is trying to recover from a five-week strike by faculty that was ended by back-to-work legislation.

Her biggest concern is possible effects on student's mental health because college guidance counsellors have also been on strike and students on the autism spectrum or who need other special accommodations have been without their usual source of support. The college instructors are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employee's Union (OPSEU), the same union that represents most employees in the provincial civil service.

"But the relationship the faculty has with the students rise above everything else", Simpson said.

The action by the Ontario Liberals came after a decision on Thursday where 86 per cent of striking OPSEU members voted against a forced final offer from the College Employer Council. We here at Niagara are committed to our students, and our fight is motivated by our steadfast commitment to see them get the quality of education they expect, deserve, and have paid for. "It is a meaningful delay and completely unnecessary".

The College Student Association, which "advocates on behalf of Ontario college students" has maintained in their media releases their displeasure at both OPSEU and the Council.

The colleges welcomed the back-to-work legislation, saying all efforts at the bargaining table had been exhausted.

"But when they came back and said, 'There is not a glimmer of hope, we are in a deadlock, ' that was when we moved to save the semester for students", she said.

However, it won't be back to the regular schedule, as many Ontario colleges are extending the fall semester to make up for the five lost weeks during the job action, including Seneca College's King Campus. "Students are the only ones who are truly being affected in this situation".

Bargaining between the colleges and the OPSEU failed to meet an agreement on two occasions, leaving about 500,000 students out of class, including students part of the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson. Grawey believes that the issues affecting academic faculty are issues the entire workforce are facing.

"For Kathleen Wynne, this was never about students or faculty".

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