Student union leaders are calling on the Ontario government to get college administrators and striking faculty to return to the bargaining table to end a labour dispute that has seen classes cancelled at the province's 24 colleges.
In a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and a number of members of Ontario's legislature, the presidents of student associations at eight colleges ask the government to get both the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union and the College Employer Council to resume talks. There are currently no talks scheduled.
Morganna Sampson, president of Fanshawe College's students' union in London, Ont., said she feels like students are caught in the middle of the dispute and their education will suffer as a result.
- Students rally in support of striking college faculty
- What students need to know about the Ontario college strike
- Too early to talk about tuition refunds, says college official
"We shouldn't be a bargaining chip in this," Sampson said on Friday. "The student associations agree this is unacceptable. They need to get back to the bargaining table."
The labour dispute involving more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians began late Sunday, after the two sides couldn't resolve their differences by a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Sampson said the student leaders are not taking sides in the strike but want both parties to reach a resolution.
"We're not here to criticize or judge or to overstep in anyway, we are just representing our students and we want what's best for them in the long run," she said.
Student union leaders from Seneca, Humber, St. Clair, Mohawk, Niagara, Sheridan, Confederation and Fanshawe college signed the letter.
Sampson said they are concerned that the quality of education will be diminished the longer the strike goes on because material will have to be condensed to make up the semester.
The student leaders have requested a meeting with Wynne, Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews, faculty union and college representatives on Oct. 26.
About 500,000 full-time and part-time students have been impacted by the strike.
The Ministry of Advanced Education could not immediately provide comment but earlier this week Matthews asked students to let the collective bargaining process work.
"We're, of course, concerned about students," she said. "We'd like this strike to be resolved but we do have to let the collective bargaining system work. Part of that system is strike and if there was any way to get students back in the classroom, to get faculty back in the classroom, of course we're interested in doing that."