Province Proposes Legislation to End College Strike

As the longest college strike in the history of Ontario pulls on, the province is now taking action, stepping into the dispute to introduce new legislation to get students back to class.

Some might say "finally".

On Nov. 16 the Ontario government announced it’s going to table new legislation that would require all of Ontario's 24 colleges to resume operations, and subsequently allow students to complete the semester.

The legislation would, if passed, terminate the college strike and, further, prevent additional strikes or lock-outs until the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) sign a new collective agreement.

Essentially all striking college workers would be required to return to their jobs.

This news comes just less than 12 hours after Council's offer was once again rejected by OPSEU and the strike was set to continue.

According to the province, any outstanding issues would be referred to binding mediation-artbitration - both parties would have five days to agree on a mediator-arbitrator. If there has been no decision after five days, one will be appointed by the Minister of Labour.

"The government has also instructed colleges to establish a dedicated fund with all savings from the strike," reads a news release issued by the province. "The fund will be used to support students who have experienced financial hardships as a result of the strike and its parameters will be developed in direct consultation with students."

According to Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews the fund will be used to support students who have experienced any sort of unexpected expenses from the strike, like additional rent costs.

“We are very disappointed that the parties were not able to resolve this contract dispute," said Matthews. "It is clear that students have borne the brunt of this situation. 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."

Roughly 12,225 faculty - professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians included - began striking on Oct. 16. The strike has been ongoing for 32 days as of Nov. 16, and has affected more than 220,000 full-time students at Ontario colleges.

Students are also exploring a class action lawsuit with Charney Lawyers, aiming to get a refund on their tuition for the time they were not in class - for every student affected.

It remains to be seen when the legislation will pass.

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