Catholic teachers ramp up job action
LONDON, ONT. -- With both teachers' unions and the province digging in their heels, the labour disputes in education don’t appear to be ending any time soon.
This time it was the Catholic elementary teachers who walked off the job across the province, about 45,000 in all.
In west London, about 30 Catholic elementary teachers braved a frigid Tuesday to hit the picket line on Commissioners Road near St. George Catholic School.
Picket captain Kim Smith says contrary to the message the government is trying to send, their fight is about much more than just money.
“We are asking for a cost-of-living increase, but that's one, two per cent,” she says.
“What we're really worried about are the kids in the classroom getting what they need - our special education programs receiving the support that they need. We are worried about the high school kids who are now being mandated to take online learning courses.”
They were among 1,300 Catholic teachers locally, including a group outside Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton's Strathroy office, who took part in a one day strike.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued this statement about Tuesday’s job action:
"We fully recognize the negative impacts teacher union escalation is having on families. It is why we are calling on these union leaders to end these strikes, given the adverse effects on students and financial hardship on parents. While this union-led escalation happens far too often, we are committed to negotiating deals that keep students in class, while providing financial support for families for child care needs."
London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, who made the rounds to a number of picket lines, says it's the government that won't negotiate.
“The teachers are doing the heavy lifting. The unions are the ones who are trying to sit down with this government and negotiate. The government has refused to come to the table, and students and families are paying the price.”
As for public schools, elementary teachers walk off the job on Wednesday.
While the one-day job actions cause headaches for some families, the province is offering compensation for those affected by rotating strikes.
Arthur Ford Public School Parent Carolyn Nichols says she won’t take it.
“I just don't like where it's coming from. Kind of dirty, just dirty politics I guess.”
Parent Steven Jones, also at Arthur Ford, says he believes the stand by the teachers will be worth it in the long run
“The class sizes nowadays are getting ridiculously large. I mean some of the classes you're talking 33 to more than 40 kids."