Ottawa

'It's about time': End to college strike finally in sight

Algonquin College students and instructors say they're elated and relieved, now that an end to the province-wide college strike is in sight. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said yesterday her government will table back-to-work legislation to end the five-week labour dispute.

Ontario premier will ask legislature to sit throughout the weekend until back-to-work law is passed

Neil Hunter, co-ordinator of Algonquin College's animation program, says he's relieved the five-week strike finally appears to be coming to an end. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Algonquin College students and instructors say they're elated and relieved now that an end to the province-wide college strike is in sight.

"It feels like the battle is over," said Neil Hunter, an Algonquin College animation instructor out on the picket line Thursday night. "It's been a pretty hard slog."

Hours earlier, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government would table back-to-work legislation to end the labour dispute, now in its fifth week.

The announcement came after talks between the College Employer Council and the union representing striking workers again ended in an impasse.

It's expected the government will ask the legislature to meet Friday afternoon, so it can sit throughout the weekend until the back-to-work legislation is passed.

Hunter said while he would have liked both parties to reach an agreement on their own, he's just glad the strike is poised to end.

"I'll be happy to go back to work next week, for sure," he said. "Anxious to see my students."

Deep divisions

While the strike may be coming to an end, Adele Yamada worries about the deep divisions it has exposed between college faculty and their employer.

"We are so adversarial and we shouldn't be," said Yamada, who teaches communications full-time at Algonquin College. "We've got a lot of really important work we need to do to try to revitalize and revamp the way we do education in this province."

Adele Yamada teaches communications full-time at Algonquin College. She says it's a shame the strike lasted as long as it did while still requiring arbitration. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Talks between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council repeatedly failed over the last five weeks.

Among the issues at the bargaining table were salary increases, improved benefits, measures to address concerns affecting part-time workers and faculty's ability to make decisions as to how they teach their courses.

Students hardest hit

For students like Renee Ellison, the last five weeks have taken their toll.

"Not being able to be in the classroom, to be surrounded by your peers all the time, it's caused a lot of frustration and stress," said Ellison, a business administration student at Algonquin College.

Renee Ellison, a business administration student at Algonquin College, says it's students who have been most negatively impacted by the strike, left to wonder what will become of their semester. (Rafael Tremblay/CBC)

Ellison said she fully supported her instructors' decision to strike, but can't help but feel that students got the short end of the deal. She said she's unsure how the strike will affect their semester.

Still, she welcomed yesterday's announcement, hopeful that she and her peers can finally put the strike behind them.

"God, it's going to feel good to go back to class," she said. "It's about time."

now