Photo: Noushin Ziafati

5-week Ontario college strike comes to an end

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By Stefanie Phillips

Ryerson students part of the collaborative nursing program are expected to be back in class on Tuesday, after the provincial government passed a back-to-work bill Sunday, putting an end to the five-week-long college faculty strike.

The Ontario Liberal government introduced the legislation on Friday after their first attempt to get faculty back to work failed on Thursday. The legislation was debated between the New Democratic Party, Liberal and Conservative parties through special weekend sittings and eventually passed on Sunday. The bill forces college faculty back into classrooms by Tuesday.

The provincial government is ordering the colleges to create a fund, to help students struggling with their finances because of the strike, and using money the colleges saved over the course of the strike.

On Oct. 16, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)–representing 12,000 college faculty, counsellors and librarians from 24 Ontario colleges–went on strike fighting for more rights for employees, including more full-time contracts and academic freedom in the classroom.

Bargaining between the colleges and the OPSEU failed to meet an agreement on two occasions, leaving about 500,000 students out of class, including students part of the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson.

In the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson, students spend their first two years of the degree at either George Brown College, Centennial College or Ryerson University. In the final two years of their degree the students are grouped together at Ryerson where they finish their degree. In their final years, students pay tuition to Ryerson but still have professors from their original colleges, for some of their classes.

The Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing (DCSN) updated the strike information webpage today writing they are “hoping” to have students back in class by Nov. 21. The website informs students that the school will be communicating information on contingency plans via email and on the strike webpage.

Nancy Walton, director of the DCSN, said in an email that the collaborative program faculty will be working with the college faculty now that the strike is over to put “robust” plans into action for the students.

Laura Chen, a fourth-year nursing student said she’s excited that the strike is over but she’s also feeling stressed about the unknown contingency plans.

Chen said she’s most worried about the written assignments for her clinical placement because many students have not received feedback, guidance or motivation since the beginning of the strike.

“There [has] been no one at their back pushing them or giving them the support… it’s like them practicing without anyone monitoring our process. So it’s quite stressful,” she said.

Chen added that she would like to see her grade be turned into a pass/fail evaluation rather than a numerical score, but recognizes that might not be fair to all students.

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