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Ontario college faculty return to work after legislation ends five-week strike

Last Updated Nov 20, 2017 at 7:48 am EST

Teachers and faculty staff of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union walk the picket line at George Brown College in Toronto on November 16, 2017. College faculty in Ontario head back to their schools today, after a five-week strike was ended over the weekend with back-to-work legislation. The 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians who had been on strike since Oct. 15 will return to work today to prepare for students' return on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – College faculty in Ontario head back to their schools today, after a five-week strike was ended over the weekend with back-to-work legislation.

The 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians who had been on strike since Oct. 15 will return to work today to prepare for students’ return on Tuesday.

Colleges are extending their semesters so students don’t lose their terms, but student advocates say trying to condense five missed weeks into roughly two extra ones will be very stressful.

They are pushing for students who feel they won’t be able to complete their semesters to be allowed to withdraw and receive refunds.

The provincial government has ordered the colleges to create a fund using savings from the strike to help students who may be experiencing financial hardship because of the labour dispute.

The Liberal government first tried to introduce and pass the back-to-work legislation in one fell swoop on Thursday night after talks stalled again, but the NDP said due diligence was needed.

The NDP forced the legislature to sit through the weekend to debate the bill, ultimately passing it on Sunday.

The legislation sends all outstanding issues to binding mediation-arbitration.

The colleges have said their final offer included a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, improved benefits and measures to address concerns regarding part-time faculty, with language surrounding academic freedom remaining as the only major outstanding issue.

But the union said the offer contained “serious concessions” that were not agreed to, which would erode faculty rights.

Conestoga College students will be back in class on Tuesday.

Here’s the message the school posted to its’ website on Sunday: