Ontario teachers resume rotating teacher strikes on Monday, January 20, meaning some Ontario students may not be able to attend school as teachers fight on behalf of their students and their working conditions. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario’s biggest teachers’ union, held a strike on January 20 in the Toronto, York Region and Ottawa-Carleton school boards. Teachers at school boards including Grand Erie, Trillium Lakelands, Renfrew and Superior-Greenstone are expected to strike on Tuesday, January 21, along with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)—including both Catholic elementary and high schools.
There will be a third one-day strike on Wednesday, January 22, impacting the Thames Valley District School, the Rainbow District School Board, and the Rainy River District School Board. On Thursday, January 23, ETFO will hold another one-day strike in the Stratford area and London region, meaning no school for students from kindergarten through grade 8.
On January 21, Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest school board, announced they will be cancelling first term report cards for elementary school students—as per an email sent to parents and guardians stating the ongoing job action by ETFO includes sanctions related to report cards.
In the meantime, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that the Ford government will reimburse parents of kids up to age 12 for up to $60 a day in childcare costs during a possible strike, which would cost the province $48 million per day. Hammond described this as “absolutely insane,” adding that the millions should be invested in students instead.
When asked if he would consider back-to-work legislation, Lecce said it was not the focus of his ministry at this point.
While some parents believe teachers are only looking for salary increases, the ETFO maintains that its most pressing issues include resources for special education, protection of Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program, smaller class sizes, reduction of violent incidents and fair compensation for educators—particularly occasional teachers, early childhood educators, professional support personnel and education support personnel.
“This is a wake-up call for Ford and his Education Minister Stephen Lecce to get serious about negotiating a deal that supports students and educators,” said Hammond in a written statement. “We have been clear that, after five months of no progress at the table, we will commence rotating strikes if a deal is not reached … It is incredible that as of today, no dates for contract talks have been scheduled by Minister Lecce with ETFO. Should no dates be set, it will be crystal clear that this government’s only mandate is to continue with its damaging cuts to public education.”
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Talks and negotiations between teachers and the government began in August, with very little progression, and job action has already begun, with many teachers currently in a work-to-rule situation, others in walkouts.
If your baby or toddler’s daycare is located in a school and there’s a strike, you may be wondering if it will close. Answer: It depends on several factors, but there’s a good chance it will stay open. Daycare centres are typically separate entities from the schools in which they are housed. Unless their workers refuse to cross a picket line, they will in many cases remain open. It’s a good idea to speak to your daycare’s supervisor as soon as possible to get their insights on how things might play out.
If you want to keep up with labour developments, here’s who to follow:
- The government of Ontario controls the funding of education. The buck stops, and starts, here. @Oneducation on Twitter.
- The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA). As the umbrella group for the 31 English-language school boards and 10 regional authorities that educate 70 percent of Ontario school children, OPSBA is the official employer sitting at the bargaining table, even if the government holds the purse strings. @OPSBA on Twitter.
- If your child goes to a Catholic school, it’s the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) that’s bargaining on behalf of 29 Catholic school boards that educate 575,000 students. @CatholicEdu on Twitter.
- Children in most Ontario public schools are supported by members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 55,000 support workers in all Ontario schools—elementary and high school, public and Catholic, English and French. @CUPEOntario on Twitter.
- If your child goes to a public elementary school, their teacher belongs to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the largest teacher union in Canada with some 83,000 members. @ETFOEducators on Twitter.
- If your child goes to a public high school, their teachers belong to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), whose 60,000 members include teachers and some support staff including social workers and speech pathologists. @osstf on Twitter.
- If your child goes to an English-language Catholic school, from kindergarten to Grade 12, their teacher belongs to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA.) @OECTAProv on Twitter.
With files from Louise Brown