The longest college strike in provincial history may be coming to an end.
As of November 17, the strike will be entering its 33rd day, and the Ontario government has now said it will be introducing legislation that would end the labour dispute and get students back in the classroom.
If passed, the current strike at Ontario’s colleges would end, and it would prevent any additional strikes or lock-outs arising from the dispute until a new collective agreement is signed, according to the province. Faculty would be required to return to their jobs.
“Through all of this, our focus has been on students and their learning. We want to see students back in the classroom as quickly as possible to continue their education,” said Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour, in a statement. “Our government respects and believes in the collective bargaining process; however, unfortunately, in this case the parties reached an impasse after a five-week strike. We must act now to get hundreds of thousands of students back in class.”
The proposed legislation governs the labour dispute between the College Employer Council, acting on behalf of the employer, and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) college academic unit.
The College Employer Council and OPSEU would have five days to agree on a mediator-arbitrator, or one would be appointed by the Minister of Labour, states the province.
The Ontario government said that it has also instructed colleges to establish a dedicated fund with all savings from the strike, which will be used to support students who experienced financial hardships because of the strike.There are 260,000 full-time students at Ontario colleges being affected by the strike.
“We are very disappointed that the parties were not able to resolve this contract dispute. It is clear that students have borne the brunt of this situation,” said Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Digital Government.
“And now after five weeks out of class, a significant number of students face the risk of not completing their academic studies if the strike were to continue. The public interest requires the government to take action to end the strike.”