Thunder Bay teachers, supporters join province-wide strike
'I think we should be willing to give them what they need,' says parent who joined picketers
Thousands of teachers in Ontario are off the job Friday as part of a one-day strike.
In Thunder Bay, dozens of picketers could be seen Friday morning walking along Arthur Street, surrounding Pope John Paul II School, and demonstrating in front of the Lakehead Public Schools board office on Sills Street.
"There's frustration because talks aren't going anywhere," said Rich Seeley, president of OSSTF District 6A Thunder Bay, which launched its first day of strike action on Dec. 4 last year.
"We're hoping that across the province with 200,000 all on the line together showing solidarity among all education unions...the government will finally realize that they can't win this one, and they will... respond to the pressure. Take the cuts off the table, go back to the bargaining table, and let's get a deal done."
Asked to respond to the province's position that it needs to change education in order to cut a $7.4 billion deficit, Seeley replied that the province is "throwing away money left, right and centre."
"They're throwing away billions of dollars in cancelled green energy projects," he said. "They're offering massive tax breaks to their business buddies."
Striking teachers are frustrated and stressed by the protracted labour dispute, he added, but they are united in "doing the right thing."
One parent on the picket line in Thunder Bay said she joined teachers on Friday to show her support for them.
Ardelle Sagutcheway feels proposed increases in class sizes could overwhelm teachers and support staff, she said.
"You know a lot of our young people are going through issues that affect them within the classroom," she said. "Those kids, they do need the support, and so I think we should be willing to give them what they need."
Sagutcheway wants to send a message to the province that parents are watching, she said, and they stand behind the teachers and support staff.