With so many people in the city suffering without public transit, the strike has moved beyond being simply a labour dispute, said Ottawa’s religious leaders yesterday.

At a rally in front of city hall, top officials from Ottawa’s Jewish and Christian communities signed letters to the mayor and the OC Transpo drivers union urging them to end the 49-day-old strike and get the buses rolling as soon as possible.

“It’s become an ethical issue,” said Anglican Bishop John Chapman. “Too many of the marginalized people, like the elderly and the very young are being hurt.”

Rabbi Arnold Fine with Congregation Beth Shalom said they were not taking sides in the dispute. They just want everyone to get back to work.

“Getting back to work refers not only to drivers, but also to city hall,” he said. “We need to get back together so this community can go forward. So those people who are suffering can get back to the things they should be doing.”

Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said the demonstration yesterday is part of a growing sense throughout the city that something has to be done.

“When we hear the union and the city are getting together we have hopes and then they’re dashed,” he said. “It’s been going on over and over. Something has got to give.”

Earlier in the day, around 100 gathered and marched from city hall to Parliament Hill to call on the government to include OC Transpo drivers in federal safety regulations.

“Drivers are able to work as many hours as they want, as many days as they want because there is no regulation,” said Catherine Gardner, rally organizer and community activist. “They are ticking time bombs. Nobody can survive on that little sleep and that many days of work.”

Marie-Christine Gauthier brought her two daughters to the morning rally because she said the strike has lasted long enough.

“It doesn’t matter as long as it ends,” she said. “There hasn’t been a lot of public protest and I think we’ve gotten to the point where the people need to come out and have their voices heard, because neither side is budging.”

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