London West MPP Peggy Sattler speaking during Question Period at Queen's Park, December 6, 2016.

London-West MPP Urges Action Over Ongoing College Strike

The MPP of London-West is calling on the Ontario Liberals to take overdue action, as the faculty strike at Ontario’s public colleges enters its unprecedented fifth week.

NDP Education Critic and MPP Peggy Sattler urged the Wynne government during Question Period on Tuesday, to act to ensure a negotiated settlement between college faculty and the College Employer Council.

“Last week’s announcement of a hardship fund for some of the 500,000 college students who have been financially disadvantaged by the strike is cold comfort to students who are seeing their dreams slip away as this strike drags on,” Sattler said at Queen’s Park. “These students are experiencing skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression with few resources on campus to assist them, they are being forced to turn down job offers and are worried how they will be able to support themselves.”

According to a press release from the New Democrat, the NDP has been asking the provincial government to bring both sides to the bargaining table since before the labour dispute began.  The New Democrats have also asked the Wynne government to address “the underfunding of post-secondary education that created the conditions for the labour dispute in the first place.”

“With no resolution in sight until at least the end of this week – and that is by no means certain – the college strike has entered ‘uncharted territory’ in the history of college labour relations,” said Sattler. “The risk of losing a semester is now very, very real, and students worry that they will have to repay OSAP for education they did not receive.”

More than half a million students across the province are currently impacted by the work stoppage.

“When St. Lawrence College student [Amanda Low] called the premier’s office to share her concerns about this, she was told to ‘call welfare,'” said Sattler. “Is this really the best advice this Liberal government can offer to students, when it is their failure to properly fund the system that created the conditions for this strike, and their inaction that has allowed the strike to drag on past the breaking point?”

No Ontario college student has ever lost their semester because of a strike. However, previous strikes at the province’s colleges, in 1984, 1989, and 2006, were resolved in about three weeks.

Faculty at Ontario’s 24 public colleges are scheduled to vote on the college’s final offer on Tuesday through to Thursday. The College Employer Council asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to take the offer directly to union members after talks between the two sides broke down a week ago.

The union representing striking faculty at Ontario’s 24 public colleges is urging faculty to reject the offer.

CORRECTION: MPP Peggy Sattler misspoke during question regarding a Lawrence College student, stating that her name was Morganne Campbell. The student’s name is in fact Amanda Low. The above article has been adjusted to reflect the correct name.