Educational Workers Turn Out In Force
By Kirk Winter
On a bitterly cold afternoon more than 125 educational workers and their supporters rallied in Lindsay in front of MPP Laurie Scott’s office.
The crowd was surprisingly diverse with elementary and secondary teachers joined by CUPE and representatives from the local Labour Council. There was also a sprinkling of concerned parents and retired teachers rounding out the participants.
The protesters wanted to make their concerns clear as the Province completes a series of pre-budget public consultations. Premier Ford has called on all ministries to find a 4 percent saving in operational costs. For education that would be a $1 billion reduction in their overall budget. Locally that would translate to an $8 million cut in funding that the Trillium Lakelands District School Board receives from Queen's Park.
Erin Matthew, OSSTF representative from I.E.Weldon, told the crowd that budget cuts, “would threaten safe and supportive learning environments right across Ontario.”
Bill Campbell, President of CUPE who represents much of the systems support staff like educational assistants, secretaries and custodians said, “Schools are already underfunded. We can’t afford any more cuts.”
If horn honking is an appropriate way to gauge public opinion, the rally was well supported as dozens of cars tooted their horns for the protestors who brought signs that included, “Ford gets an F for funding” and “We can’t AFord any cuts.”
Union representatives have already met with Minister of Labour Scott and Conservative MPP Norm Miller who represents Muskoka, and have generally been pleased with the cordiality shown by their local politicians.
Contracts for all four of the teacher's federations expire at the end of August, and many expect the spring budget will set the tone for those negotiations, which most informed observers expect to be acrimonious.