Dozens of parents gathered in Toronto’s downtown core Sunday to send a message to the Ontario government to reach a settlement with unionized education support staff as talks continue with a midnight deadline looming.
Parents and teachers held a rally outside the Sheraton Centre Hotel on Queen Street West, where both sides are sitting at the bargaining table, to show their support.
“They deserve to be paid fairly and treated fairly,” said Kimberly Perry, a mother of a Grade 9 student in the GTA and a union representative with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).
“This gathering says that parents care about what happens in the school and the system and want the system to respond and make sure they’re funding it properly. This was organized overnight.”
It’s nearly down to the wire as the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Doug Ford government continue the bargaining process with the threat of a province-wide strike looming.
“We should be investing in education not cutting education,” said Chris Gill, a teacher in Peel Region. “It’s a huge issue. We don’t want to stop protesting until Ford reverses all of the cuts.”
Last Monday, the union began a work-to-rule campaign that saw many of the services in schools diminished, including custodial cleaning and maintenance, school trips and communication with parents.
On Wednesday, that campaign escalated as the union served notice to the province that its 55,000 members are prepared to walk off the job if a contract isn’t negotiated.
Those employees range from office administrators to special education assistants and custodians.
“It’s an extremely taxing job and they need our support,” said Karen Fowler, who attended the rally with her daughter Ruby. “I feel for our teachers, our daycare workers everybody. It hurts everybody. It hurts the city. It’s not a smart move at all.”
By Thursday, several school boards across Ontario had issued notices to parents explaining that if a strike does happen, they’ll be forced to close schools because without support workers, safety and security is a concern.
A media blackout is currently in place as both sides continue to negotiate. The deadline to reach a deal is 12:01 a.m. on Monday.
Updates on contract negotiations will be posted on GlobalNews.ca and shared on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.