Elementary students at three local schools are expected to be locked out of their classrooms next Tuesday as their teachers hold a one-day walkout.
Ontario’s public and Catholic elementary teachers have announced that they will hold a one-day strike January 21 unless the province takes action to engage in “serious talks” towards new contracts.
The walkout will mean that all elementary classes at Mackenzie Community School, St. Mary’s School in Deep River and St. Anthony’s School in Chalk River will be closed.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced a one-day strike Wednesday affecting Toronto, York Region and Ottawa.
Thursday, the ETFO announced that walkouts will also be held Tuesday in the Grand Erie, Trillium Lakelands, Renfrew and Superior-Greenstone school boards.
“Other than cuts to education, Ford’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce has refused to give his negotiators a mandate to discuss the substantive issues we know are important for students and education workers,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.
“Unless the government makes an immediate effort to engage in serious talks, we will have no option but to further escalate our strike action. As of today, Minister Lecce has established no dates for contract talks.”
Hammond said government negotiators still have no mandate to discuss critical issues including ETFO’s proposals for: smaller classes where students get the help they need; more resources for students with special needs; protection of our world-renowned Kindergarten program; reduction of violent incidents; and fair compensation for educators, particularly occasional teachers, early childhood educators, professional support personnel and education support personnel.
“The public education that our students need and deserve cannot be hijacked by a government whose only aim to date has been to make funding cuts. We want this government to invest in public education and the future of Ontario’s students.”
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) announced Monday that all of its members will take part in a one-day “full withdrawal of services” – walkout – next Tuesday, January 21.
The OECTA has been in a legal strike position since December 21 and announced last week that it would begin work to rule action this week.
“It has become clear that this government will only do the right thing when they are under pressure from Ontarians. They have left us little choice but to take the next legal step in the bargaining process,” said OECTA president Liz Stuart.
Stuart said the province-wide walkout will be the first of its kind for Catholic teachers in more than 20 years.
“The government’s claim that this is a common occurrence is an insult to Ontarians’ intelligence.
“Negotiations are always tough, but teachers have only had to take this type of action when our rights and working conditions, and the learning conditions of our students, have been under direct attack.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced Wednesday that the government plans to offer parents up to $60 per day if strike actions close schools or school-based child care centres.
“Our aim has always been to reach a negotiated settlement that keeps kids in class, which we have done successfully with multiple labour partners to date,” Lecce said in the announcement.
“We recognize the impact of union escalation on families is real, and unions expect hard-working families to bear the costs of their cyclical labour action.
“While unions impose hardship on families and students, our government is taking proactive steps to ensure students remain cared for — and families supported — in the event that unions decide to further escalate job action in their fight for enhanced compensation and other demands. The contrast could not be clearer.”
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(Photo: Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) held a one-day walkout at Mackenzie Community School last Wednesday as part of the OSSTF’s rotating job action.)