Local teachers, support staff and affiliates braved the cold on Wednesday afternoon as they rallied in front of Local MPP Ross Romano’s constituency office in the Sault to stand up for the Health and Safety of workers as well as to push back against cuts to special education services, the Ford government’s plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses.
This mirrored high school strikes across the province on Wednesday as well, which affected a series of boards including the provinces’ largest — the Toronto District School Board — as well as boards in Southwestern, Eastern and Northern Ontario.
“We are out here to show the government and Ford and Romano that we mean business, that we want to negotiate a fair deal for our support staff – and let’s not leave support staff out of it – and our teachers,” Sharon Indervold, Strike Coordinator for District 2 Algoma told SaultOnline.
Indervold, who said this strike is just as much for the kids as the educators and support staff, said she thinks push back against the Ford Government is important to the future of public education.
“If we don’t turn the tide now, then our public system is going to go down the toilet like it is in many of the United States’ states,” she explained.
“We need to say ‘let’s preserve what we have, let’s make it a better, high quality system.’
“There’s always room for improvement, but at the end of the day, we believe we have a good system in place. Let’s not destroy it.”
Allies such as OPSEU, UNIFOR, and The Sault Ste. Marie and District Labour Council to name a few, showed their support during the rally as well, waving flags at cars honking their support as they drove by the Elgin St. and Bay St. intersections.
OPSEU representative Jeff Arbus told SaultOnline that, as part of a union that supports educational support workers across the province, he thinks coming to the rally to show that support for the key issues at hand is important.
“We’re talking about the key issues being increases in class sizes and forcing e-learning on students, some of whom don’t have access to what they need,” he explained.
“When all of the research tells us that being in contact with a teacher, with an educational support worker, in special needs classrooms – in all of that, face-to-face, personal contact is really critical to learning.
“I think the research is really solid on that. I don’t think we need to go any further; let’s get this deal done.”
Indervold said that education workers and their allies will continue to pressure the government to get back to the table and “signal to the provincial government that we want a deal.”
“Our numbers indicated that 71 per cent of the public support what we’re out here doing, so we want to continue with that momentum om a forward basis.”