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Student leaders ask province to intervene in college faculty strike

Last Updated Oct 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm EDT

Striking faculty stand on the picket line outside of Humber College, in Toronto on Oct. 16, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

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.

“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.

In a statement Friday, Matthews said the province remains optimistic that the faculty union and colleges will reach an agreement at the bargaining table.

“While the uncertainty students face is challenging, I want them to know that previous college strikes have not led to students losing their semester,” she said. “We are hopeful that both parties will find a solution at the table that gets students back in the classroom where they belong.”

Related stories:

Labour groups, students stage rallies to support striking college workers

Ontario college strike cancels classes for about half a million students

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