THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Government has introduced back to work legislation to end the strike at Ontario Colleges.
The Ontario government will be introducing legislation that would end the college labour dispute and return Ontario college students to the classroom. The legislation would require Ontario’s 24 colleges to resume operations, ensuring students are able to complete their academic studies.
If passed, the legislation would require the current strike at Ontario’s colleges to be terminated, and prevent any additional strikes or lock-outs arising from the dispute until a new collective agreement is signed. Striking college workers would be required to return to their jobs.
The proposed legislation governs the labour dispute between the College Employer Council, acting on behalf of the employer, and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) college academic unit. All outstanding issues would be referred to binding mediation-arbitration. The College Employer Council and OPSEU would have five days to agree on a mediator-arbitrator, or one would be appointed by the Minister of Labour.
The government has also instructed colleges to establish a dedicated fund with all savings from the strike. 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.
Statement from Confederation College President Jim Madder:
We have received information from the College Employer Council that the government is acting to legislate an end to the strike. We ask that all parties in the legislature think of students first and support its speedy passage. The passage of the back-to-work legislation will take a few days and we will provide updates as they are available.
We want our students and faculty back as quickly as possible. We could see classes resume in a matter of days and expect classes to resume at some point next week (the week of November 20).
Updates will continue to be posted to the dedicated website: www.confederationcollege.ca/academic-strike.
The legislation garnered support from the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued the following statement: “I will not support back to work legislation. I want students back in classrooms Monday, and I want that achieved through a deal.
“It looks like Kathleen Wynne wanted to use anti-worker back-to-work legislation all along. She spent barely an hour at the table today, after doing nothing for five long weeks.
“The reason we’re in this mess to begin with is because Premier Wynne and her Liberal government have failed to properly fund post-secondary education for years, putting Ontario last in Canada when it comes to per-student funding.
“The premier has the ability to call the legislature back, and the NDP is prepared to sit through the weekend to debate this move.
“College students across the province missed out on five weeks of class, have been put under financial strain, and have had to put their life plans on hold because Kathleen Wynne refused to lift a finger to help bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Now that this has become a political problem for the Liberal party, she is ramming through reckless back-to-work legislation.
“New Democrats will not support any legislation that takes away the rights of any workers in this province. Kathleen Wynne is failing both college students and their instructors with her actions today. This does not solve the problem she created.”