Back-to-work bill passes

Teachers and faculty staff of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union walk the picket line at George Brown College in Toronto

Calling the strike a "catastrophe" for students, he heralded the government's promise of a task force to study issues like the fact that 70 per cent of college faculty are part-time, which was a sticking point for the union given concerns about precarious work. The Liberal motion was supported by the Progressive Conservatives and opposed by the New Democrats.

Conestoga College's Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Dinning says the winter semester is set to begin on January 15 and that the mid-winter Student Success week from February 26 to March 7 will not be changed.

The government has put more flesh on the bones of the promise it made last week to compensate students, announcing on Monday that students will be eligible for up to $500 to compensate for unexpected costs and that those who decide simply to end their college try will get a full tuition refund.

Colleges will be allowed go above the $500 maximum in exceptional cases, Blazina said. "Lots of work to be done".

After a morning meeting with College management, OPSEU local president Grant Currie said the pressure is on to save the semester. "Essentially we will have faculty that will finish up one course on Friday and be brand new running into a new course the following Monday".

The colleges, represented by the College Employer Council, and college faculty members, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, have five days to agree on a mediator-arbitrator or else one will be appointed by the Ontario minister of labour, according to McGarry.

The aid for full-time domestic and worldwide students will cover unexpected costs such as child care, rebooked train and bus tickets and January rent.

But they could not explain the discrepancy between the government's statement this week and the colleges' position from last week. Whether colleges could, in 18 hours or so, have wrangled all their staff and faculty (who were, after all, being forced back to work against their will) into returning to work is questionable.

"Everybody in that room is ready to do what we signed up to do and that is provide a quality education for our students". OPSEU chair JP Hornick said at the time they were hoping to return to the bargaining table, but also called for the government to disband the College Employer Council, the "private club" that represents 24 public colleges in collective bargaining.

At the same time, he said the focus of educators will be on "ensuring all key learning outcomes are met" for students within various programs. "There will still be adequate time for students to prepare for any tests or exams that had previously been scheduled to take place during the work stoppage period".

"How do you get back to business as usual? We have a lot of work to do as a college", added Vollebregt, who called the strike - the longest college strike in Ontario's history - an "emotional experience". "Business as usual? Not yet".

"It won't be easy nor will it be quick".

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