Students caught in the college strike want a fresh start

Humber College

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne put forth back to work legislation this afternoon that would have pushed to have students from Ontario's 24 community colleges back in class by Monday.

It could pass immediately today with unanimous consent of all three parties in the legislature, but the NDP say they will force debate.

The provincial government is set to table the legislation today, after an attempt to do so Thursday evening was blocked by the NDP.

In a provincewide vote, 86 per cent of faculty voted to reject the College Employer Council's November 6 offer, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) said, further aggravating the local students' concerns.

The 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians went on strike October 15.

Earlier Thursday, Matthews had sharp words for both the colleges and the union.

If the deal had been accepted, it was expected that students and staff would have been back to classes either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"'I'm excited to go back", says James Savage, "because we're only coming here for badminton right now".

"We are sad and bored", said Maddie Thompson, one of the students at the rally.

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"This is a bad result for students who have been caught in this strike for more than four weeks", Georgian College president and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes said in a letter to students Thursday morning.

Numerous students at the rally Thursday are from Brockville, and many of their fellow students who are from out of town have gone back home while the strike happens, while many others have dropped out.

Talks between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council repeatedly failed over the last five weeks. "They have to focus on students". "Unfortunately the NDP is dragging this out", Wynne told CP24 on Friday.

"We are approaching the time where we will start to see people with lost semesters but we are not there yet", she said.

While none of this will likely satisfy anxious students, those concerned about the financial impact of the strike might be happy to be reminded that the province is creating something of a "hardship fund" for students adversely affected by the disruption.

"This is not the way that anyone would expect to bargain", she said.

Numbers from the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development show that tuition fees have increased much more over the past seven years than government funding to colleges has. "They're understandably anxious about how they will make up the lost time as colleges release back-to-school plans that include extending the semester right up to Christmas".

Meanwhile, students have filed a class action lawsuit alleging the colleges breached contracts with students by failing to provide vocational training and a full term of classes.

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