5-Week Ontario College Strike finally marks an end

Ryerson students part of the collaborative nursing program are expected to be back in class on Tuesday, after the provincial government passed a back-to-work bill Sunday, putting an end to the five-week-long college faculty strike.

The Ontario Liberal government introduced the legislation on Friday after their first attempt to get faculty back to work failed on Thursday. The legislation was debated between the New Democratic Party, Liberal and Conservative parties through special weekend sittings and eventually passed on Sunday. The bill forces college faculty back into classrooms by Tuesday.

On Oct. 16, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)–representing 12,000 college faculty, counsellors and librarians from 24 Ontario colleges–went on strike fighting for more rights for employees, including more full-time contracts and academic freedom in the classroom.

Colleges are extending their semesters so students don’t lose their terms, but student advocates say trying to condense five missed weeks into roughly two extra ones will be very stressful.

They are pushing for students who feel they won’t be able to complete their semesters to be allowed to withdraw and receive refunds.

The provincial government is ordering the colleges to create a fund, to help students struggling with their finances because of the strike, and using money the colleges saved over the course of the strike.

In the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson, students spend their first two years of the degree at either George Brown College, Centennial College or Ryerson University. In the final two years of their degree the students are grouped together at Ryerson where they finish their degree. In their final years, students pay tuition to Ryerson but still have professors from their original colleges, for some of their classes.

The NDP forced the legislature to sit through the weekend to debate the bill, ultimately passing it on Sunday.

The legislation sent all outstanding issues to binding mediation-arbitration.

The colleges have said their final offer included a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, improved benefits and measures to address concerns regarding part-time faculty, with language surrounding academic freedom remaining as the only major outstanding issue.

But the union said the offer contained “serious concessions” that were not agreed to, which would erode faculty rights.

by Israt Yasmin, The Blogging Connection

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