The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (EFTO) has announced two consecutive days of strike action across the Rainy River District School Board next week, if a contract agreement cannot be reached by month’s end.
A third week of rotating strikes will affect local elementary schools on Wednesday Feb. 5, followed by a province-wide one-day walk-out of all 83,000 members on Thursday, Feb. 6.
The move has been met with scorn from Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“Teacher union leaders once again are breaking their promise to parents as they proceed with a full one-day withdrawal of services, province-wide. The consequences of union-led escalation are real, as families are forced to find child care on short notice,” he said. “Repeated escalation at the expense of our students, to advance higher compensation, higher wages, and even more generous benefits, is unacceptable for parents and students in our province. We firmly believe students should be in class, which is why we continue to stand ready to negotiate to reach a deal Ontario students deserve.”
However, ETFO President Sam Hammond alleges that the province hasn’t been fully engaged at the bargaining table.
“From ETFO’s perspective, fair contract talks must include: appropriate funding for Special Education; a strategy to address classroom violence; maintaining our internationally recognized Kindergarten program; fair hiring practices; class sizes that meet the needs of elementary students; and compensation that keeps up with inflation,” he said. “I challenge the minister to send his negotiators back to the table to address these issues because in four months of talks from August through December 2019, his negotiators had no mandate to discuss them.”
“Educators and parents are not going to accept the government’s deep cuts to public education that only serve to harm the quality of education for generations to come,” he added.
If central agreements are not reached by Jan. 31, ETFO will escalate its rotating strikes as follows:
Feb. 3: One-day strikes in Bluewater, Grand Erie, Halton, Ontario North East, Renfrew County, Superior Greenstone and Trillium Lakelands school boards.
Feb. 4: One-day strikes in Avon Maitland, Durham, Durham Catholic, Hastings-Prince Edward, Lambton Kent, Peel, Rainbow, Thames Valley and Upper Grand school boards and Campbell Children’s School Authority.
Feb. 5: One-day strikes in Kawartha Pine Ridge, Keewatin-Patricia, Lakehead, Near North, Ottawa-Carleton, Penetanguishene Protestant Separate, Rainy River, Simcoe County and Upper Canada school boards and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre.
Feb. 6: One-day strike of all 83,000 ETFO members.
Feb. 7: One-day strikes in Algoma, Greater Essex County, Hamilton-Wentworth, Limestone, Niagara, Toronto, Toronto Catholic, Waterloo and York Region school boards as well as Bloorview, John McGivney Children’s Centre, KidsAbility,Moosonee, Moose Factory and Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre school authorities.