The message was loud and clear, as hundreds of Fanshawe College’s striking faculty marched from Victoria Park to London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews’ office.
The union wants to negotiate, and they want Matthews to force the college employer back to the table.
“May we remind you that you are the minister responsible for colleges,” said Darryl Bedford, the president of OPSEU local 110, as he read a letter addressed to Matthews out loud to protesters.
“You’re not an innocent leader here. We need leadership. You can, and you must, do something while there is still time. Sincerely, Darryl.”
Upwards of 300 people mobilized before the park’s bandshell on Thursday morning, as representatives from a number of different unions declared their support.
“What do we want?” called out JP Hornick, the chair of OPSEU’s bargaining unit, as she led a couple of chants.
“Fairness!” the crowd yelled back.
“When do we want it?”
Thursday’s rally in London is one of many demonstrations that have been taking place throughout the province, the past 11 days of the strike. On Wednesday, Hornick attended one outside of Queen’s Park in Toronto.
“What happened at the end of that rally, is that Deb Matthews called us into her office to let us know if there was any way she could lock us in a room with counsel, throw away the key, and wait for us to reach a settlement.”
“I thought, ‘Great plan, why haven’t we thought of that?'” Hornick said, giving a sarcastic laugh.
Shortly before 1 p.m., protesters headed towards Richmond Street and marched with a police escort northbound to Matthews’ office on Piccadilly Street.
“You’ve got mail! You’ve got mail,” the crowd chanted.
Matthews wasn’t in her office, but Bedford delivered a letter to her office staff instead.
“The government is saying equal pay for equal work is important. They’re saying that precarious employment is an issue that they want to tackle,” he said, standing on the office’s front lawn.
“So we’re saying that. The government’s saying that. So where’s the council in this?”
Matthews hasn’t commented on possible intervention to resolve the strike, but has said earlier that 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.
Classes have been cancelled at some of the province’s 24 colleges, including Fanshawe, while about 500,000 full-time and part-time students have been impacted.