Demonstrations and Lobbying
On March 8th members of PSAC 610 with the help of OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) and other student groups such as Society of Graduate Students, Canadian Federation of Students and the London Student Coalition, staged a demonstration outside of Jeff Yurek's office in St Thomas. Yurek is the Progressive Conservative MPP of Elgin - Middlesex - London. The demonstration was to address cuts to student grants, changes to OSAP, as well as the introduction of the student choice initiative - which is an ideological move to de-fund student unions.
Although we did not get to meet with Yurek we managed to leave petitions with his staff. We stand in solidarity with students demands of free publicly funded education, debt forgiveness on student loans, and the right for students to organize!
Later, on the same day, members of PSAC 610, with the help of the London and District Labour Council, and the office of Irene Mathyssen MP London - Fanshawe, had the opportunity to lobby Jagmeet Singh, current leader of the federal NDP. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss labour issues, or at least issues facing our members directly. Healthcare, including medication and dental coverage, was a common theme, as well as pensions.
PSAC 610 addressed the issue of the right to strike and collectively bargain, as CUPE 3903, that represents Teaching Assistants at York University, was forced to end their strike through back to work legislation put forward by the Progressive Conservatives. This also would have likely happened to us if we had gone on strike back in April. More recently, CUPW (Canadian Union of Postal Workers) was forced back to work by the federal Liberal party. We wanted to ensure that if Jagmeet Singh wins that he will defend the right to collectively bargain, as well as the right to strike. We also asked for relief from debt incurred by students through loans received by the National Student Loan Service. Ontario has the highest tuition rates in all of Canada, and our members continue to take out student loans to survive being graduate students. By at least partially removing our debt burden, by forgiving the national portion of our student loans, would go some way to alleviating the financial stress of our members.
Given that this was a lobbying meeting, we did not receive an immediate response, in terms of explicit actions and policies, but we at least had the opportunity to express our concerns. This meeting came together rather fast, but if you have concerns that would like to be addressed if similar opportunities arise, feel free to reach out by e-mail.