Students suing Ontario colleges over disrupted school year

Frederick Owens
November 21, 2017

Faculty returned to college campuses across Ontario Monday, ready to get back to work after a five-week strike that's forced a drastic change of schedule for both instructors and their students.

About 500,000 students have been out of the classroom since October 15 after contract talks broke off between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents striking staff, and the College Employer Council, which represents Ontario's 24 colleges.

For Confederation College students, classes will resume on Tuesday. "So it's quite stressful", she said.

The provincial government previously directed colleges to create a fund for students with the money saved from the strike. This money will not count against students OSAP assessments.

It will be back to work today for Ontario's college faculty.

"You don't know what to study, and a lot of students feel this way", she said last week.

Students will also be eligible to get up to $500 for costs incurred because of the long-running dispute.

Bargaining between the colleges and the OPSEU failed to meet an agreement on two occasions, leaving about 500,000 students out of class, including students part of the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson.

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College Student Alliance President Joel Willett said his group had been pushing the government to offer the tuition refund so students could start fresh in the new year.

But the NDP says these offerings are paltry given the financial stresses and academic uncertainty suffered by students during the five-week-long strike.

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 fall semester at many schools will be extended into the week starting December 18, with some colleges like George Brown finishing as late as December 22.

"There was worry that (the student's) year was compromised, relationships with faculty would be compromised", he said.

NDP education critic Peggy Sattler said students should be given a full tuition refund for the semester.

Cambridge and North Dumfries MPP Kathryn McGarry said government action was necessary to end the lengthy college labour dispute.

"I'm focused on our faculty getting back and our students getting back in class".

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