After a week of uncertainty, Algonquin College students were relieved to learn that the faculty bargaining team and the College Employer Council reached an agreement and called off the scheduled strike late Thursday night before the 12:01 a.m. deadline.
The Applied Arts and Technology bargaining team representing the college faculty and the CEC issued a joint statement just over an hour before the strike deadline on March 17 announcing they’d agreed to enter binding arbitration interest and end the work-to-rule actions.
In an announcement by Algonquin College, President Claude Brulé wrote that both parties reached an agreement.
“For our learners and our employees, everyone was really anxious about this and we all want to put our students first. The quality of education is important to us all and we did not want to interrupt the learning process,” said Brulé. “It was great news to be able to announce this and all the students were able to return to class.”
Laila Doyon, a student in electrical engineering technology, said the past two years have been very tough.
“Online learning is not ideal for anybody and the mental health aspect was really hard on everyone,” she said.
Doyon, who is in her program’s last semester, says the stress of working on a final project was made more difficult by the uncertainty of a potential strike. As she has a job coming out of the program, she also didn’t know if that might be at risk too. “It was like we were not kept in the loop about anything,” she said.
For Doyon, she felt like the CEC and the union were attacking each other, because of how they were talking.
“It felt like bullying and it doesn’t feel right that we were put in the middle of it. It was like being part of a divorce,” said Doyon. “I don’t know what is going to happen next. I am worried something will happen next because we have now been conditioned that something will happen. So, it has been difficult and still is. It will remain until the year is done until I actually have my graduation.”
Culinary management student Amelia Medl, said that she was so relieved after reading the email on her phone.
“I was smiling and laughing,” said Medl. ” I was so happy because I waited for that email. I stayed up late because I knew there would be an email saying if it would happen. I mean not having classes is obviously super stressful because I have a bit of a schedule that I’m on. I want to graduate and obviously I like what I’m doing.”
Medl said she was anxious the semester would wrap up earlier and the students would have to go.
“I was just kind of stressed out about that, but it was a super big relief that it didn’t happen,” she said.
Business administration student Shane Deavy was a student during the 2017 strike. Last week’s experience gave him a bad feeling he’d felt before from the previous strike.
“I was here in Algonquin for a different program,” he said. “So I was kind of hoping that they wouldn’t have one, but also expecting that they would if that makes sense.”
Deavy said when he heard the news about the potential strike, he felt incredibly disappointed.
“I mean, nobody wants to go on a strike. But if you’re going to strike, at least give us our money back or say something more on the guidelines as to what will happen,” said Deavy. “Get your shit together. We’re already paying a lot of money as is to come here, especially international students.”
Brulé said the college is pleased they were able to reach an agreement and now the matter is being placed before an arbitrator and those next steps will be put in place in the weeks to follow.
“To me, it’s a very positive step forward,” said Brulé. “It allows us to continue what we want to do. Our mission is to transform hopes and dreams into lifelong success. This is the heart of it. We all want our students to be successful. This allows us to complete the winter term uninterrupted and we’re delighted.”