Ontario college strike ends after 5 weeks

THE CANADIAN PRESS  Chris Young

"Half of Ontario's college students are parents, they are mature students".

"Is this timeline ideal for students? No".

In other words, an argument over whether the NDP stalled the progress of back-to-work legislation is actually about a governing party that's trying to make sure its opposition wears at least some of the blame for the way the strike ended, in the hopes that progressive voters in the GTA who were turned off by the NDP last time around might remember that feeling on voting day.

"One of those parties, the College Employer Council, refused to accept that their approach to bargaining had failed, and refused to do anything to get our students back to class".

Students now receiving OSAP who were likely to graduate before December 31 and have their current semester extended, or have their winter semesters extended past the normal end date, will receive additional OSAP for the length of the extension.

While plans being developed for the weeks to come will have "common guiding principles", Wales said they will also vary to meet the demands of individual programs.

Colleges will be allowed go above the $500 maximum in exceptional cases, Blazina said. "The five-week strike was caused by years of underfunding colleges by the Liberal government, which now has the lowest per-student funding in the country".

"Over the past month, I have heard from students about hardships they have experienced as a result of this strike".

Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews, asked to clarify the government's assertion on Monday, repeated it.

"That's why we are taking these measures to ensure students have the support they need to complete their studies".

"Students have paid the price for the premier's inaction - they paid academically, emotionally and financially - $500 will simply not be enough for many students to recover".

A back-to-work bill that would end an Ontario college faculty strike appears on track to be pushed through the legislature on Sunday.

In the NDP statement, education critic Peggy Sattler criticized the province's promised tuition refund. The fall semester has been extended into January, and La Cité has cancelled spring break. "We are very hands-on", she said.

It's still also unclear how much money is in the funds set up by the colleges, and whether it will be enough to cover the applications from students.

But that's not a decision to take lightly, Wales said.

Students should expect to show documentation of the additional costs.

However, they concede that the government's majority means passage of the bill today is inevitable. "But we're back", he said, adding both sides have five days to mutually select an arbitrator.

What's less clear is whether any students are actually being harmed by the NDP's slow-walk. "It's a long road from here still".

The local OPSEU rep says during negotiations, the only unresolved issue was academic freedom but that wasn't reflected in the college employer council's final offer for the forced vote last week.

Willett said regardless of the government policy, students will have to deal with the aftermath of the labour dispute. "It will be nice to have the whole team together and have the students back in the hallways".

"I'm not sure how we're going to get everything done if there's going to be assignments shortened or removed".

The 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians, who had been on strike since October 15, are returning to work to prepare for students' return tomorrow.

Algonquin College students can expect to attend the classes on their Tuesday timetables.

Niagara College president Dan Patterson was involved in planning meetings Monday and not available for comment.

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