More than 200 arrive in force at Valois Train Station
By Kevin Woodhouse
As train commuters and motorists were making their way home on a recent Wednesday evening, they were greeted by more than 200 teachers from the Lester B. Pearson School Board who came bearing signs, banners, whistles and information pamphlets for commuters.
The point of the demonstration was to show the provincial Liberal government that they are not happy with expected changes coming to education that could involve larger class sizes, less help for special needs students, the potential loss of preparation time for teachers as well as increasing their work week another three hours from 32 to 35.
Over the next five years, the government has proposed a three percent increase in pay, with nothing for the next two years and then a one per cent increase per year.
“The government is asking us to work more hours with no pay increase so we say ‘no thank you,” John Donnelly, president of Pearson Teachers Union told the crowd to enthusiastic applause.
“The current offer by the government is draconian and will set us back to the 1970s,” Donnelly said.
“Negotiations have been going terribly as we have not been able to make any movement with the Treasury Board,” Donnelly said.
Regarding the pace of negotiations, Minister of Government Administration and Program Revision, Treasury Board president and Nelligan MNA Martin Coiteux told The Suburban that “as we bring issues to the negotiation table, we are asking the teachers to be agents of change.”
Coiteux said the idea is not to slash education indiscriminately but to manage “our spending so that by cutting, we can use the money for education more effectively for the students.”
As for the possible changes to class sizes for teachers, Coiteux noted that current collective agreements “are full of mathematical formulas to determine class sizes that have no room for flexibility.”
Donnelly told The Suburban that as of right now, a strike mandate is not on the table and with the teachers’ contract life finished yesterday, “there will be a 60-day mediation period where we will hold more public demonstrations.
“We need to let the public know that if this goes through, there will be larger class sizes and less for special needs students,” said Donnelly.
Paul Delorme, of Lindsay Place High School, has been an educator for 20 years and was on hand for Wednesday afternoon’s demonstration.
“As teachers, we work about 50 hours a week as it is and that doesn’t count extra hours given for trips and tournaments,” Delorme, a music teacher, told The Suburban.
“A job that is getting harder with a pay that doesn’t even keep up with inflation is not the way to motivate a staff,” said Delorme.
“Too many teachers leave the profession after five years,” said Donnelly.
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