After the latest in sixteen rounds of negotiations between Blaisdale Montessori and CUPE Local 5257 failed yet again, the 100-plus employees, already struggling without “fair wages and a fair contract” since last year, decided to walk out of the workplace starting Nov. 16.
The delicate nature of caring for toddlers, with additional precautions due to the pandemic, has left the workers with no other choice. What do you expect, when the majority of them are still making minimum wage but are increasingly put at risk on a daily basis, as we enter the second wave of a pandemic with record numbers of cases ?
This strike affects all seven campuses across the Durham Region, which are renowned for their “long and proud tradition as one of the first Montessori Schools in Canada.” To which Sara Lorne, President of the Local 5257, said, “If Blaisdale Montessori School truly valued providing excellent education, they wouldn’t be treating teachers and support staff so unfairly.”
Primarily focusing on the issue of wages, the negotiations have been called “disappointing” by the bargaining team. “The CUPE Local 5257 members are dedicated, loyal, highly-skilled staff and deserve to be treated with respect,” emphasized Lorne.
Literally two days after the strike began, the adjacent Toronto Catholic District School Board just reported their first confirmed death of a staff member due to COVID-19 since reopening in the fall. This shed even more light on the glaring injustice towards teachers, who are expected to continue working even though they might have been exposed to the virus.
The “overwhelming” decision to pursue job action by CUPE 5257 is not an isolated incident in Ontario. It resonates with a few other Union Locals who have had enough of private companies putting “wealth before health”, voting to go on strike against the sharply declining safety conditions, amidst this criminally mismanaged pandemic.
Earlier this month, in a parallel struggle against wage restraint, the workers at the Tropicana Community Services also voted for strike action. Fightback stands in solidarity with them as well as with the Blaisedale Montessori staff. Both locals have requested the submission of letters and petitions from other Unions in support of their rights to fair wages in the face of rising living costs.
Victory to the teachers and support staff of Blaisdale Montessori!