Union Applauds Move to Help College Students

Important Information on the Ongoing Ontario College Strike

Some 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians have been off the job since October 15, leaving about half a million students out of class.

The union representing striking college faculty is praising a plan by the province to help students.

If the offer is accepted, about 500,000 students could be back in the classroom as early as next Tuesday.

The Labour Board announced that it's set to hold a faculty vote on the employer offer-a vote the OPSEU isn't on board with.

Eckenswiler says she spoke with Georgian College Owen Sound campus Dean Fred Varkaris on Monday and he had no issues with the students' planned protest.

According to the colleges, the offer includes a 7.75 per cent salary increase over a four-year period and improved benefits, such as extended pregnancy and parental leave.

The increasingly bitter Ontario College strike is entering its fifth week with no end in sight.

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"We're a body of 1,000 students", Eckenswiler says.

But the union said the offer contains "serious concessions" that were not agreed to, and which would erode faculty rights and contribute to an unsustainable staffing model.

The union said the offer allows colleges to expand contract faculty without restriction, while avoiding paying equal pay for equal work, decreases full-time jobs, and does nothing to recognize the need for academic freedom for teachers.

"It's about time. Now that they're going to put it in a vote, it gives you hope that it might actually end", he said.

While none of this will likely satisfy anxious students, those concerned about the financial impact of the strike might be happy to be reminded that the province is creating something of a "hardship fund" for students adversely affected by the disruption. "And from our perspective, it's not an either/or", she said.

Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews has said the government wants to see students return to the classroom as quickly as possible.

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