SUDBURY -- The heads of some of Sudbury's biggest unions gathered online this week to express their disgust with what they witnessed at Laurentian University.

"I am sickened, saddened and mad. Mad because a government that claims they are for the people wouldn't leave students high and dry as they have," said Mike Bellerose, president of CUPE Local 4705. "When I was a student, Laurentian was financially my only option. I'm sure it's the same for many of the affected students. Laurentian and the province turned their backs on students. "

Bellerose noted for a government that claims to care about workers, it was ironic they let more than 100 pink slips get issued on campus. He said the fact that they were let go without proper severance is maddening.

"I'm calling for immediate action by the federal and provincial government," he said.

Bellerose was joined in the Zoom meeting by several groups including the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Northeastern Building Trades Council and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

According to the group, there will be a profound impact on students, along with hundreds of jobs and tens of millions in annual economic activity lost.

"I'm appalled that Franco-Ontarians are again being shoved to the side as a type of nuisance," said D'Arcy Gauthier, of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union. "I'm appalled that Indigenous communities and Indigenous programs are being shoved aside, again, as a type of nuisance. For far too long these groups have been the whipping post in this country."

Gauthier said the cuts undermine the university's mandate and throw out millions of dollars in federal program supports.

Call for public inquiry

"We demand immediate emergency stabilization funding, we also demand Minister Romano resign effective immediately and we also demand a public inquiry, the Ford government's purposeful dismantling of the university must be investigated," he said into the Zoom screen.

The United Steelworkers have given lots of money to the campus and its labour studies over the years. Its members aren't sure where those funds are today.

"When it comes to where our money is today, the money that we put into the university and scholarships and funding, we don't know," said vice-president of local 6500 Kevin Boyd. "I want to very clear we support the local university, this is our university, but we need to understand when we donate money where that money is going and until we get those answers, we have to be mindful of where our money is going."

Boyd said if Laurentian doesn't get the help it requires, he, like many, is worried about what that will mean in terms of recruiting the talent they need in northern Ontario.

"We're hoping to attract to the north," he said. "If people migrate away, they may stay away."

The union leaders say they plan to keep pressure on both the university administration and provincial leaders to address their concerns.