On Sunday, the Liberal and Progressive Conservative MPPs joint forces to pass Bill 178, An Act to resolve the labour dispute between the College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, despite objections by the NDP. NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who has received much criticism for rejecting moves to fast-track the bill, said that while she is happy that students will be back to school, her party remains opposed to what they view as “anti-worker” legislation.
The bill ordered 12,000 striking college teachers and their students back to class. Faculty are back to work Monday and some 500,000 students follow Tuesday. The strike, which began five weeks ago, has become the longest college strike in Ontario history.
Ontario is requiring colleges to establish a dedicated student support fund with net strike savings to assist students who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the strike to complete their studies. Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said Monday that students who decided to withdraw from college due to the strike will be eligible for a full tuition refund. All full time students will also be eligible to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs as a result of the strike.
According to chief executive Don Sinclair of the College Employer Council, in many programs, the semester will be extended two weeks to December 22 and the reading week will likely be cut. A week or two may also be added to the end of the spring term to make up for lost time as well. As it stands now, the end of this college labour dispute leaves many students unsure of how to navigate the dramatically condensed semester.