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Volume 91, Issue 22
Friday, October 3, 1997
Sock it to the loo
Teachers rock Thompson arena: Union leaders say strike will probably occur
HECK NO, WE AIN'T GONNA TEACH NOTHIN' TO NOBODY!" Thousands of London teachers gathered in Thompson Arena last night to protest education reform and enjoy a hockey game at the same time.
By Brendan Howe
The ice at Thompson Arena almost melted last night from the intensity of over 4,000 teachers shaking the building by cheering their support for union leaders.
Members of the Ontario Teachers Federation and several affiliate unions gathered at 7 p.m. to find out more about a possible strike and plan of action in the coming weeks. Union leaders were greeted with a standing ovation as they walked onto the ice and several more as the event progressed.
"Now is the time to harness our strength and focus our attention on the fight ahead," said Eileen Lennon, OTF president.
She told the capacity crowd this was the fight of their lives and Bill 160 could not be passed. Lennon later thanked the Western students from the faculty of education who signed a petition supporting the teachers' battle to stop the bill.
"Students should write, phone and fax their [Member of Provincial Parliament] and force a solution to this problem," she said.
Marshall Jarvis, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said students can also pitch-in to help out the teachers by joining picket lines and supporting their fight. He said fighting Bill 106 is important for students because it affects the number of teaching jobs there will be in the future.
Jennifer Munchhof, a student at Wheable Adult Education Centre, said she attended the meeting out of support for the teachers and her concern for her own education. The 24 year-old explained she is in her final year of high school and plans to go to Fanshawe College next year but is worried she will not graduate because of the strike.
"I wouldn't back down if I were [the teachers], not from what I've heard here tonight," Munchhof said.
The theme of the night was "We won't back down" and every union leader who spoke enforced this. Barbara Sargent, president of the Federation of Women Teachers' Association of Ontario, said the future of Ontario's students is at stake and it cannot be sacrificed.
Chuck Bulmer, an Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation member and high school teacher/librarian, was at the event and said he is concerned. "This issue makes me ill. If we have to go on strike it's the worst possible thing we can do," he said, adding there is no other option the union can take.
Jarvis said they would rather be in the classrooms but they cannot risk student education being sacrificed by not acting. He also said in the event of a strike, teachers would not obey a legislated back-to-work order.
Lennon said unions are planning to wait until after public hearings scheduled for Oct. 20 and if the bill is not changed by then, they will go on strike. If the government sticks to their current agenda there will be a strike, she said.
The speaker of the meeting, Doug McCarthy, also announced teachers' plan to picket the office of Bob Wood, London south MPP, at 4:30 p.m. today.
Earlier this week, Peter Hickey, communications assistant to the Minister of Education and Training, said all of the teacher federations have the opportunity to attend committee meetings for open discussion. "We will continue a daily open-door policy, we are more than willing to meet with them." As for the relationship of teachers and the Ministry, "We think we have mutual goals in mind."
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997