College strike: Ontario government sitting on the sidelines

According to an article published by CTV News, the Ontario government has no plans to intervene in the province-wide college strike that has kept students out of class since Oct. 16.

This comes after student association leaders from eight Ontario colleges, including Mohawk College, wrote an open letter to the Ontario government on Oct. 20, asking for the government to step in.

“As the representatives of our individual student associations and advocates for our students, we are calling on you… to continue encouraging both the OPSEU and the CEC to return to the table,” the letter read.

“Every day of class missed affects our students and their ability to learn,” the letter continued. “We are urging the Ontario government to step in and help our students return to the classroom.”

Instead, the government appears to be taking a step back from the issue.

Deb Matthews, advanced education minister, did not respond to questions from Ignite News. However, Matthews tweeted on Oct. 23, saying the responsibility to end the dispute doesn’t lie with the government.

“Solutions to the issues belong to the CEC and @OPSEU,” Matthews tweeted. “They need to take responsibility for this dispute and return to the bargaining table.”

Deb Matthews tweet.

Deb Matthews’ tweet saying the responsibility to settle the dispute lies with the CEC & OPSEU.

The tweet saw responses almost immediately, with many people expressing frustration with the government’s apparent decision to do nothing.

“OPSEU is ready to talk anytime but the CEC keeps stalling… there needs to be an intervention. For the sake of the students,” a user with the handle @EmiDidact wrote on Twitter, expressing a popular sentiment.

Despite Matthews’ tweet, an agreement between the two parties doesn’t seem likely without some kind of mediation. According to David Scott, a representative for the College Employer Council (CEC), the two sides have not been in contact since the strike began.

“There have been no talks, no invitation to talks, and no scheduled talks since OPSEU started its strike on October 16,” Scott said.

‘Had management been willing to bargain, we could have settled in August.’

– Geoff Ondercin-Bourne, Local 240 president.

Geoff Ondercin-Bourne, president of Local 240 and a teacher at Mohawk College said he hopes the two sides can come to an agreement – one he believes could have been made months ago.

“I hope the colleges get serious this week and come to the table,” Ondercin-Bourne said. “The issues are not insurmountable. In fact, had management been willing to bargain, we could have settled in August.”

It remains to be seen what impact the letter had on the strike – if any. Nevertheless, the student associations aren’t stopping there, accord to Samantha Hoover, president of the Mohawk Students’ Association.

On Wednesday, Hoover told Ignite News of plans to speak with the advanced education minister.

“Myself and the majority of the eight Ontario student association presidents are meeting with Minister Deb Matthews in Toronto tomorrow so we can raise our students’ concerns directly with her, in regards to the strike.”

However, Hoover couldn’t provide much information for Ignite News on Thursday when asked for an update on how the meeting went.

“Still going on, will update tomorrow,” she said.

As it stands, more than 500,000 college students have been kept out of class for nearly two weeks due to the strike. If the province refuses to step in, students – and picketing faculty – could be in this for the long haul.

Ignite News will continue to cover the strike as it affects the students and faculty of Mohawk College.









About the author  ⁄ Andres Billiald

Andres Billiald is an aspiring journalist with a passion for writing. Andres has a love for film, writing and his better half. While an intern at the CBC's Hamilton Bureau, he covered everything from a bomb scare to a dispensary raid and even interviewed Rick Mercer. With more than 20 published stories for the CBC, Andres hopes to continue to grow as a journalist, gaining experience whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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