October 26, 2017 7:57 am
Updated: October 26, 2017 8:01 am

Ontario colleges strike: student leaders head to Queen’s Park, union rallies in London

Faculty at Fanshawe College walk the picket line at the entrance in front of T building on Oxford St. E.

Jaclyn Carbone / 980 CFPL
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Last week student unions from eight of the 24 colleges shuttered by a faculty strike signed an open letter to the province, calling on the government to intervene. In the letter, they said if the strike wasn’t resolved by Oct. 26, they would head to Queen’s Park.

With the strike still on, eight student leaders, including one from Fanshawe College, have travelled to Toronto for a midday meeting with Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews.

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READ MORE: Ontario colleges’ strike enters second week

Speaking Wednesday, Matthews said she understands the frustration college students are feeling over the ongoing labour dispute that has cancelled classes but says the province needs to let the collective bargaining process work.

There have been no talks between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council since Oct. 15 when 12,000 college instructors, counsellors and librarians walked off the job.

READ MORE: Handful of Fanshawe College students join picket line on Day 3 of faculty strike

While the province has said it will not get involved in the strike, OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas has a different idea.

“The premier can say to the employer’s side ‘well all right, explain your issues to me, get back to that table, open your mind up a little bit, and do some of the things that the workforce is saying would make education better.’ A lot of these things don’t cost any money,” said Thomas.

If there’s no resolution, the eight student leaders will be attending a rally planned by the College Students Alliance, an independent umbrella group for Ontario’s college attendees, next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, OPSEU local 110, the chapter representing Fanshawe College’s 800 striking faculty, has their own rally planned in London Thursday morning.

“Faculty, friends, family, supporters, anyone who would like to see us get back to the table [are all invited to join]. We’re going to have a rally at Victoria Park [at 11:30 a.m.] and at 1 p.m. we’re going to march to the constituency office of Deb Matthews,” said Daryl Bedford, president of OPSEU local 110. “Now, she probably won’t be there, but we’ll deliver our message, and she might hear it all the way to Toronto. We’re going to deliver the message that we want to get back to the table, no more stalling. She is the minister of advanced education and skills development.”

“She is not an innocent bystander in this.”

READ MORE: Fanshawe teachers union takes protest downtown, says morale isn’t dampened

The union has asked that the number of full-time faculty match the number of faculty members on contract.

It also called for improvements in job security, and for faculty to have a stronger voice in academic decision making.

“We’re expecting a lot of people. We’re going to be loud and we’re going to send that message. We want to get back to bargaining. We’re ready, willing and able. Any time that call comes, we’ll meet at the table,” said Bedford.

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