Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Thursday the ruling Liberal Party is tabling back-to-work legislation in an attempt to end the ongoing provincial college faculty strike.
However, within an hour after the announcement, the New Democratic Party of Ontario made clear it would not support the motion.
Unanimous support of the legislation from the political parties would have meant college students returning to classes on Monday, according to a statement from the Liberals.
The government said that “after learning that parties were at an impasse” they attempted to table legislation to end the college labour dispute to “return Ontario college students to the classroom where they belong.”
Both the College Employer Council and the Public Sector Employees Union have publicly stated they agreed to work toward binding arbitration Thursday afternoon but accused the other side of not agreeing.
The Liberals requested “unanimous consent from all parties to introduce and pass it”, saying that the NDP blocking the motion prevented students from returning to the classroom.
Wynne’s party will request the Speaker to reconvene parliament at 3 pm on Friday to start a process of passing back-to-work legislation that would force striking faculty back to the colleges.
Parliament could last through the weekend, according to political observers.
This comes just hours after the result of a forced vote that the Ontario Labour Relations Board ran on the request of the College Employer Council was announced.
The labour board said 95% of the 12,841 union members filled out a ballot online with 86% of them voting “no” in what the union described as a “historic” rejection.
The employer and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union launched negotiations at the bargaining table Thursday afternoon after the request of Queen’s Park but failed to agree to binding arbitration, Wynne said.
The premier implored that the opposition Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties to work with Wynne’s ruling Liberal Party to pass legislation quickly to get students back to campus.
It is not clear exactly what the parametres of the forced deal would be for the colleges and faculty, but picketing would end and classes would resume for the some 500,000 full and part-time students around the province.
The College Employer Council accused the union negotiators of asking for a return to work bonus pulled from a student hardships fund set up by the education ministry, however, the union denied the accusation at a press conference Thursday evening.
Previously, Wynne and post-secondary minister Deb Matthews have said a legislated return to work for striking faculty remained an option.
The strike kicked off a month ago on Oct 16 after the colleges and the union representing faculty, librarians and counselors could not reach an agreement before a planned deadline.
There was one attempt to return to the bargaining table but the process fell through and the College Employer Council legally requested a forced vote.
Upon a request for comment, IGNITE President Maya Jocson told the Post that its “main goal during this very unfortunate time is to make sure that we support ALL students and raise their concerns effectively, strategically and appropriately.”
“John [VP of GH], myself and everyone from IGNITE are doing our absolute best and will continue to do so as long as we represent our students.”
More details to follow. Please refresh for the latest. Image 1 of Kathleen Wynne from Macleans.