Wynne’s inaction leaves college students behind as labour dispute enters its fifth week

QUEEN’S PARK—In question period on Tuesday, NDP Education critic Peggy Sattler called on the Wynne government to bring stability to the college system rather than chaos, by finally acting to ensure a negotiated settlement between college faculty and the College Employer Council. The labour dispute at Ontario colleges is now in an unprecedented fifth week.

“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,” said Sattler.  “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.” 

Even before the labour dispute began, New Democrats have urged the Wynne government to bring both sides to the bargaining table to reach a fair settlement that supports high quality post-secondary education. The NDP has also called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to address the underfunding of post-secondary education that created the conditions for the labour dispute in the first place. On Tuesday, Sattler once again advocated for students who have taken out student loans for a college semester that has been halted in its tracks.  

“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. When St. Lawrence College student Amanda Low called the Premier’s office to share her concerns about this, she was told to ‘call welfare’.” 

“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?” asked Sattler.