Ontario’s education minister Deb Matthews said on Friday that students who suffered financial difficulties during the college strike would be supported by savings generated during the shut down.
Matthews released a statement saying that she would require “that colleges establish a dedicated fund with all the savings from the strike.”
She said the funds would be used in supporting students that suffered “financial hardships as a result of the strike.”
“I will work with students and colleges starting immediately to develop the parameters of the fund,” said the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
The union representing faculty supported the move by the Queen’s Park, saying in a statement that Matthews did exactly what the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union was petitioning for earlier in the week.
“What Minister Matthews has done is exactly what faculty were asking for in the petition we launched earlier this week,” said lead union negotiator JP Hornick.
“Anything that will help students get through this difficult time is more than welcome, and we thank the minister for moving ahead with it.”
The College Student Alliance said that the hardship fund wasn’t going to solve all the problems that the strike has caused in a statement Friday morning.
The statement says that the CSA still encourages the colleges and faculty union to “get back to the table, agree to binding arbitration, and get a deal done this weekend.”
When an agreement between the provinces 24 public colleges and the faculty union couldn’t be secured before the deadline, a strike kicked off for about 12,000 faculty on Oct 16, cancelling classes for some 500,000 full and part-time students across Ontario.
The College Employer Council and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union returned to the bargaining table on Nov 2 before negotiations broke off and the council called for a forced faculty vote for next week.
Matthews takes the student side
Deb Matthews made clear that she was supportive of “students and their learning.”
Matthews said she met with student leaders and organizations to hear out the student concerns. It is unclear whether Ignite student life was part of the meeting.
“While every student’s situation is unique, all students are struggling with continued uncertainty,” the statement reads.
“This is a challenging time for everyone, but particularly for students.”
Matthews said she looked forward “to working directly with student leaders and colleges on how we can lessen the impact of the strike on students.”
“They deserve our support.”
More details to follow. Image 1 of Ontario Legislative Building from Wikimedia.