Over 1,000 Frontline Education Workers Protest Outside MPP’s Office in Port Hope

In Editor Choice, Local, Provincial

Over 1,000 frontline education workers protested in front of MPP David Piccini’s office in Port Hope on Friday, November 4, 2022.

In total throughout Ontario, 55,000 frontline education CUPE workers held the political protest.

The sidewalks on both sides of Peter Street in front of Piccini’s office were crowded with CUPE workers and supporters.

“Custodians, maintenance workers, office staff, educational assistants, early childhood educators, library staff and others – the workers who keep our schools running – took on the most powerful bully in the province,” CUPE said on their website.

“The government threatened them. They tried to break their spirits with lowball offers that would push workers further into poverty and fail to meet the needs of students. Then they passed backwards legislation completely trampling on our Charter rights.”

In a show of support, there was a constant honking of horns as driver’s drove by Piccini’s office.

The louder the horn, the more protesters cheered. The loudest cheers were for the police when they would drive by and honk.

Lynne Lewis has been working for Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board for three decades and is currently a client services analyst trainer at the board’s office in Peterborough.

Lewis said the CUPE members, “sharing their voice and speaking up for their fundamental rights as Canadians” on Friday.

“Having that right taken away by someone who spent so much time worrying about passing a Bill then sitting in a conference room and hashing out to negotiate a fair settlement – we’re not asking to be rich.”

“We’re not teachers. We don’t get the same salary they get.”

Lewis said she makes under $30 an hour and has to have specific qualifications including post secondary education.

“Over the years the amount they gave us was so minimal, if they have come to the board fairly back then we wouldn’t be here now.”

Lewis said all they are asking for in terms of wages is something close to the cost of living.

“If we can do that, when we go to work, with the students that we care about, we don’t those financial stresses in the back of our mind. We are free to focus on their needs, their safety, their security.”

Lori Pettey who is a secretary at St. Mary Elementary School in Campbellford said families have come to drop off food and water to the protesters throughout the day.

Other unions like the nursing union, the SEIU, and the Transit Union also came out on Friday to show their support.

“They know they are next on the list.”

Pettey said Ford and Lecce should get back at the bargaining table and work out a contract in good faith.

“The biggest stumbling block is we need a living wage and he’s not willing to meet us even half way with a living wage.”

“I would like to invite Stephen Lecce or Doug Ford to come to one of the schools and perform one of the jobs we do and see what we have to deal with.”

“They won’t do that. They’re not seeing what really happens inside a school.”

Pettey says she firmly believes the Government is trying to break the union.

“Definitely trying to break the union.”

“And there is many unions saying they are so proud of us for putting up the fight and they will be right beside us because their contracts are coming up too.”

On Thursday, November 3, 2022, Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce said in a statement that CUPE was “demanding a 50 percent increase in compensation.”

But Brian Ruddy who has worked as a custodian at Port Hope High School for six years says that is false.

“We’re not asking for 50%. We’re asking a loonie, a toonie, and a quarter.”

“We’re asking for everything else to be held where it’s at.”

Ruddy says they aren’t asking for the world.

“Our EA’s (Education Assistants), and Early Childhood Educators, we’re asking for them to have a half hour of prep time like teachers get. They are actually teaching classes just like teachers.”

Ruddy said the EA’s and ECE’s are doing their prep work at home.

“Everybody else doesn’t work for free – why are we?”

“We keep taking cuts, and cuts, and cuts.”

CUPE members are having to take two jobs and even the students can see staff is tired.

“Give us something that we can spend time with our families and be in a good mood.”

Ruddy says they put a lot of false smiles on their faces when they go to work, “because kids deserve a smile.”

With the legislation passed by the Ontario Government, everyone protesting on Friday, face a $4,000 fine – daily.

“Illegal or not illegal we have to stand up for what is right. Not just for us, but for the kids.”

“The main stumbling block is he won’t negotiate. He’s gone beyond negotiations. He hasn’t even bothered to sit at the table that often. And when he does sit there, he comes in with foolish offers.”

The retention of staff is something that is very low in schools Ruddy says.

One woman who was protesting said she was a EA and literally gets beat up at school.

“She puts on motocross equipment to deal with kids.”

“I don’t know to many people that get into a fight and go back in with the same boxer and get beat up again.”

“We need support staff. Teachers need support staff, The Board needs support staff.”

Ruddy said he’s prepared to be out, “as long as it takes.”

“This is serious. This needs to be fixed.”

“It is our time to fight and have our voices heard.”

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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