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St. Lawrence College faculty and staff return to work

In a show of solidarity as they returned to work Monday after five weeks on the picket line, a piper led a procession of staff and faculty as they walked into the Kingston campus together.

The college’s president, Glen Vollebregt, says the task now is to give students the education they paid for.

“We’re going to have to earn their confidence and their trust back,” Vollebragt said. “But I am incredibly confident that with the amazing folks we have at St. Lawrence College we’re going to do it.”

Classes are set to resume Tuesday and students and staff are preparing to hit the ground running.

After a morning meeting with College management, OPSEU local president Grant Currie said the pressure is on to save the semester.

“We’ve got semester information startup. We’ve got one day to get ready before classes tomorrow so it is a bit of a mad rush.”

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To make up for time lost during the faculty strike, the college is extending the semester and eliminating reading week.

Vollebregt says it will be a shortened Christmas break as well.

“[We’re] going right to the 21st, 22nd time frame, starting back early after new year and we’ll finish the semester by the end of April — the second semester.”

A few students trickled into the college to start getting a jump on the missed class time.

They’re happy to be returning to class but student Lauren Shoniker is concerned about the workload.

“I’m not sure how we’re going to get everything done if there’s going to be assignments shortened or removed. I’m not quite sure how we’re going to finish the semester but looking forward to getting it done.”

First-year Bachelor of Business Administration student, Adam Deschambault, was already in Davies Hall preparing for the return to class.

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“There’s going to be a lot of midterms, even this week coming up, so there’s a lot of stress and anxiety that can be dealt with over the next couple weeks.”

Back to work legislation approved by Queen’s Park will send outstanding contract issues to binding arbitration.

READ MORE: Ontario students offered tuition refund as college strike ends

An arbitrator still has to be chosen and how long the process will take isn’t known.

Currie says it could come down to what offer the employer comes back to the table with.

The local OPSEU rep says during negotiations, the only unresolved issue was academic freedom but that wasn’t reflected in the college employer council’s final offer for the forced vote last week.

“If it was the negotiated outcomes are what the arbitrator is going to look at and decide on that sole issue of academic freedom then we should be back in the game.”

READ MORE: College teachers to return to class Monday, ending a 5 week-long strike

The province is offering a full tuition refund for students who withdraw from this semester because of the labour dispute.

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Students will have two weeks after the start of classes to decide whether to take the offer or continue with their education.

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