The Ontario government has ordered the province's colleges to create a fund to help students who may be experiencing financial hardship because of a faculty strike that has cancelled classes for a month.
Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews says she has heard from students who are worried about how to pay for unexpected costs that could arise as a result of the labour disruption, like having to pay additional rent or cancelling travel plans.
Matthews says Ontario's 24 colleges will establish the dedicated fund with all the savings from the strike, made up of unpaid wages to striking staff and other savings from not operating the schools.
She says she will work with students and the colleges to establish the parameters of the fund.
Earlier this week, Ontario's Labour Relations Board set dates for a vote on the College Employer Council's final offer to striking faculty — balloting will take place online from Nov. 14 - 16.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents the 12,000 striking college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians, has called on its members to reject the offer.
The strike began on Oct. 15 and has left 500,000 full time and part time students out of class.
Matthews says she has met with student leaders and agrees that the fund must be established quickly to help students.
"This is a challenging time for everyone, but particularly for students," she said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. "So, in the coming days, I look forward to working directly with student leaders and colleges on how we can lessen the impact of the strike on students. They deserve our support."
The ministry could not immediately say how large the fund would be, but colleges reported $5 million in savings after an 18-day strike in 2006.