Algonquin College releases details of ‘strike relief fund’ for students

Students returned to class on Tuesday. They can apply to a strike relief fund starting next Wednesday.

Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia

Full-time Algonquin College students will be able to apply starting next Wednesday for compensation for “unexpected, incremental” strike expenses they have incurred — or might still incur.

Cheques could start rolling out as early as Dec. 6, according to the college. 

Ontario’s 24 colleges were ordered by the province to reimburse students for their expenses with the money the schools saved in instructor wages during the strike, the longest in the province’s history. Each college is responsible for administering its own fund.

It’s still unclear how much money from Algonquin and La Cité will be available to compensate students. But in the 2006 strike, which lasted 20 days, the province’s colleges saved more than $5 million in total. 

All full-time Algonquin domestic and international students currently enrolled in the fall term are eligible to apply for funding of up to $500. Those who withdraw for the fall term will not be eligible, said the college in a statement.

Eligible costs include incremental costs to change or cancel travel booked before Nov. 9, such as rescheduling a flight, bus or train trip; incremental living costs including food, accommodations and incremental child care expenses. Other expenses based on individual needs will also be considered. Students are expected to provide receipts or supporting documentation.

All applications will be required to provide detailed payment receipts or related supporting documentation to complete the application for review and funding consideration. The college is encouraging students who have financial needs that exceed the $500 to contact its registrar’s office and financial aid to access other options including emergency bursaries, and fee deferral.

Algonquin says applicants will be notified of the refund decision within 10 business days of a submission, and students whose applications have been approved will get a cheque within three to five business days of the decision. However, the college is aiming for a quick turnaround, and says 10 business days refers to processing in the case of unexpected volume or reconciliation. It is expected that straightforward applications can be processed in fewer than 10 days and some cheques may be issued within a day of being approved. 

Other questions remain, including answers for students who can’t or don’t want to change their travel plans. Algonquin is urging these students to speak to their professors before changing travel plans to see if the original plans could be accommodated. 

Applications will be accessed online through Algonquin’s student portal (ACSIS). The application will be open until the end of the winter 2018 semester — April 28, 2018 for most students. Inquiries about the relief fund can be sent to: strikerelief@algonquincollege.com.

On Monday, the province announced that college students who withdraw within two weeks of the end of the strike would be able to apply for a full refund of tuition and ancillary fees for the fall semester if they are “unable to complete the course for reasons related to the strike.” These students can’t apply for compensation through the strike relief fund.

What’s next?

Bill 187 put an end to the longest college strike in Ontario history. So what’s next for negotiations between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents the province’s 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians, and the College Employer Council, which represents the province’s 24 community colleges? This newspaper posed some questions to Ministry of Labour spokeswoman Janet Deline. 

Q: Under the legislation, what are the colleges and union members obliged to do?

A: Once the act received royal assent (on Sunday), each employer was required to resume its operations; the union and employees were required to terminate the strike. The employer and the union are to agree to a person to be the mediator-arbitrator to deal with all matters remaining in dispute. The legislation gives the parties five days from the date of royal assent to agree on the person to serve as the mediator-arbitrator. 

Q: What is the time frame for returning to the bargaining table?

A: The mediator-arbitrator is to begin the mediation-arbitration proceeding within 30 days of being appointed. Within 90 days of being appointed, the mediator-arbitrator is to make a final and binding award addressing all the matters to be dealt with in the parties’ new collective agreement. These timelines can be extended upon agreement of the parties.

Q: Does the clock run out at any time? If it does, what will happen then? 

A: If the employer and union fail to name a person to be the mediator-arbitrator, the legislation calls for the Minister of Labour to make the appointment.

Q: Is another strike or lockout possible? 

A: It would be deemed an unlawful strike for the purposes of the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act 2008, and the aggrieved party could apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a remedy.

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