Unions mark Labour Day, raise awareness of cuts to provincial funding

Ken Kellar

Local labour unions had a beautiful day to celebrate the most recent stat holiday.

A group of members from unions including OPSEU, CUPE, ETFO and OSSTF held a free barbecue at the point in celebration of Labour Day on Monday.

Hot dogs and burgers were grilled up for members of the public who attended, and several activities were on offer for the kids, including a money pit and a bouncy obstacle course.

“A bunch of our local labour unions got together to host a labour day picnic,” said Sydney Chalifoux, a member of OPSEU’s Provincial Young Workers Committee.

“We just wanted to remind the community that all of our labour unions are here, and in the event that we are at a bargaining table and do go on strike, that we have kind of just established ourselves in the community a little bit more.”

However, members of the unions were also taking time during the day to raise awareness of what they see as damaging cuts to funding.

Tammy Graham, the Area 7 VP and secretary-treasurer of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) representing CUPE, explained that each of the unions has members who have been affected by cuts coming from the provincial government, as the unions represent a huge cross-section of different industries.

“We’re just supporting the Labour Day event to get people out and realize all these cuts that Ford is making to everybody,” Graham said.

“And [understand] all the people that are involved between the hospitals and health care and education system. OSBC represents 55,000 support staff across Ontario, we’re everything but teachers, and the cuts are horrible, to say the least.”

Graham went on to say that though teachers have become the most visible of employees in the education sector to be affected, the changes in funding impact the support workers as well.

“The biggest misconception is that it’s only teachers,” she explained.

“People don’t realize that there are 55,000 support staff workers across Ontario and all of cuts have affected all of us, from custodial and maintenance to ECE’s in the classrooms, EA support, clerical. You name it and CUPE represents them and it’s hitting us just as hard.”

At one of the booths at the barbecue, members of the public were invited to sign a petition meant for the Ford government.

Kim Kaus, Unit Chair 65-04 representing the Northwest Catholic District School Board as well as the Area 7 mobilization officer for CUPE, explained that the goal of the petition is to stop the Ford government’s cuts to funding across all sectors.
“It’s not just the education sector, it’s municipalities, health care, any public sector area,” Kaus said.
“Ford is making massive cuts, it’s affecting everybody from college tuition to the grants that students are applying for in the north. That has been slashed. The grants aren’t available. It’s across the board, it’s impacting everybody from every corner and walks of life.”

Kaus also said that she thought taking a tour of some of the facilities that have seen funding cuts could help to convince the premier that his strategy isn’t working.

“Personally, I would like to say come,” she said.

“Come into the schools. Come talk to the families that are being directly hit, come and talk to people who are having their health care slashed, come talk to the people that are really impacted, because I think that if he did, he’d have a different perspective going into this and I think he would change a little bit.”

Graham and Kaus both said they were pleased with the turnout for the event.

“I think this is great,” Kaus said.

“This is our first event so this is pretty awesome, next year it’s just going to grow and we’re going to continue pushing forward.”