Students affected by the Ontario college strike plan to stage a rally this week to urge an end to the labour dispute.
According to Wendy Eckenswiler, a first-year student at Georgian College in Owen Sound and organizer of the local rally, students will flood hallways at college campuses across the province at noon on Thursday (Nov. 16). The grassroots movement known as #AssToClass has launched a website which includes a mandate and plan to allow students to get back to school while the Ontario Public Service Employers Union and College Employer Council continue bargaining.
The student movement wants the strike suspended immediately and classes to resume Nov. 19, and suggests binding arbitration to settle unresolved issues between the two sides locked in a labour dispute.
"Something needs to be done," Eckenswiler says. "We're on the verge of losing our semester."
Eckenswiler says she spoke with Georgian College Owen Sound campus Dean Fred Varkaris on Monday and he had no issues with the students' planned protest. She says a number of faculty at the Owen Sound campus were also supportive.
"We're a body of 1,000 students," Eckenswiler says. "We're hoping to get a few hundred just to fill the halls."
The students' mandate also calls for a number of other concessions mainly tied to financial relief because of the failure to deliver services.
"Part of the mandate is if the sides don't agree we are going to pull our second semester tuition," Eckenswiler explains. "We are not going to pay for anything until we're back in class. We're not going to invest in more of this mess. It's just giving them more money to argue over."
Some 500,000 college students in Ontario have been out of class since Oct. 16 because of the strike.
OPSEU members are set to vote over the next three days on the final offer put forward by the Colleges before talks stalled last week. Union leadership has been telling its members to reject the offer.