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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Over 400 Teachers, Education Workers Flood Downtown Owen Sound

Owen Sound | by Cody Misner  

These protests are part of a province wide job action from the OSSTF

Over 400 members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation are participating in the 5th day of job action in downtown Owen Sound today.

Those participating in the protests include local high school and elementary school teachers and education workers from Bluewater District School Board.

Both high schools and elementary schools across the board have been closed due to today's job action.

Bluewater student have only seen two days off from school due to these job actions.

On a local level, OSSTF repersentatives say they are not being heard by their Queens Park offical.

"I think Bill Walker is taking advantage of constituents in this area by putting our rural students in jeopardy," President of Bluewater District 7 of OSSTF Betty-Jo Radden says well picketing outside the office of the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP.

Today during the 5th day of province-wide job action Radden and over 400 other Federation members participated in protests to encourage a better deal between the union and the province.

Currently, talks between the two are non-existent with cuts to education that impact class size and call for mandatory online learning at the forefront of the union concerns.  

The Minister of Education has directly stated that the main topic halting negotiations is compensation.

Radden explains that this is not about teachers wanting more money but rather for education workers like EAs to maintain a livable wage with inflation.  

"Our educational assistants make an average of $35,000 a year, so to not keep up with the cost of living will be going backwards," Radden says.  

On a local level, she says that OSSTF District 7 is not being heard by their Queens Park representative.  

Bill Walker was not present in Owen Sound today but Radden still stated a message for him saying "here in Bluewater we are spread very thin and these cuts make it more difficult for us to maintain our 9 schools in rural Ontario."

In a statement from Bill Walker, he responds to the accusation around his lack of support for union member concerns.

"We came to the barginning table with a reasonable agreement that we belive is fair at this time," Walker says. "I believe the minister has done a great job in trying to be accessible, to making sure we are there , with a full focusing on making sure the kids get the education they deserve.

Radden also responded to criticisms that job actions that close schools negatively impact students.  

"This government has already negatively impacted students," states Radden. "The cuts they have made are hurting our students here in Bluewater, we see much larger class sizes than we previously saw."

Meantime, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced today the province plans to provide financial support to parents impacted by teachers' unions strikes that close schools or school-based child care centres.

A statement from the Ford government says a full withdrawal of services could require parents to make alternative arrangements.

The province says it will provide up to $60 per day to parents whose kids are impacted by closures, with amounts varying by age.

Lecce says while unions impose hardship on families and students, the government is taking proactive steps to ensure students remain cared for.


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