London

Students, province to meet as college strike enters second week

A group of Ontario student leaders have tentative plans to meet with Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews on Thursday to discuss the ongoing faculty strike that has cancelled classes at 24 colleges across the province.

Students say they plan to meet with Deb Matthews Thursday about strike affecting 500,000 students

Striking librarians, professors and counsellors picket outside Fanshawe College in London, Ont. The strike affects about 500,000 students province-wide. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

A group of Ontario student leaders have tentative plans to meet with Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews on Thursday to discuss the ongoing faculty strike that has cancelled classes at 24 colleges across the province. 

The move, which has not been confirmed by Matthews's office, comes after students from eight college student associations sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and a number of MPPs on Friday. The letter asked the government to get both the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union and the College Employer Council to resume talks. 

Morganna Sampson, president of the student union at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., said students are frustrated that no talks have been scheduled with the strike now in its second week. 

"They need to get to the bargaining table, this is very frustrating to the students," she said. "It's unacceptable that our lives should be put on hold for two parties disagreeing." ​

Sampson said she expects the meeting with Matthews will happen Thursday evening at Queen's Park in Toronto.

The labour dispute involving more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians began last Sunday, after the two sides couldn't resolve their differences. About 500,000 students are affected.

Sampson said students are growing uneasy. 

"The anxiety and pressure is definitely rising," she said. "Students want to be back in classes."

College council expects 'fairly protracted' strike

The union representing striking staff and faculty are demanding more full-time positions and an increased role in academic decision-making.

The College Employer Council has offered a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years and has promised to improve the conversion of contract faculty to full-time positions.

Don Sinclair of the College Employer Council said the union's demands for a firm ratio of parttime to fulltime staff is "a huge stumbling block."

"Everyone would like to see it resolved soon, I just don't see it being resolved soon," he said. "I think this is going to be fairly protracted."

J.P. Hornick, the chair of the college faculty bargaining team, said a deal can be reached if the colleges get back to negotiating. 

"To go around and scare students with this notion of a protracted strike, it's unfortunate that they're taking their position," she said. "If they wanted to, they could bring their offer directly to faculty now and have a better sense whether theirs is a strong negotiating position."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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