SOUTH DUNDAS – A strike by the four public-sector teacher unions in Ontario will see more than two million students out of school on February 21st.
The four unions – Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens – announced the unified one day strike last week.
Nearly 200,000 teachers will be off the job and all four publicly-funded school systems will be shuttered.
All four unions have had some form of rotating strike action since December, and have had work-to-rule campaigns in place since November.
The planned job action will be the largest education strike held in Ontario since 1997.
“It is clear to all four Ontario education unions and our members that the Ford government and Education Minister Lecce care nothing about students or educators and everything about taking money out of the publicly funded education system,” said AEFO president Rémi Sabourin.
“The Ford government is reducing supports for students with special education needs and mental health issues. It is squeezing students into overcrowded classes and forcing high school students to take e-learning courses,”said OECTA president Liz Stuart.
“By not seriously addressing the issues critical to students and student learning, the Ford government has made a sham of contract talks over the last seven months,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond.
“It is now evident that the Ford government’s agenda is entirely ideological and not at all concerned with providing quality education,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof.
In a statement, education minister Stephen Leece said, “Our focus is on keeping students in class, as they deserve better.”
Leece called on the unions to accept private mediation to resolve the contract issues.
“While union leaders are organizing further disruption, our government remains focused on getting deals at the bargaining table.”
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell echoed Leece’s stand. In an interview with The Leader, he said that the province has made significant progress with the unions.
“But there are issues with rules for seniority,” McDonell said. “We need to have the best teachers in the classroom, but seniority rules say the those there the longest have priority.”
He said that e-learning is another sticking point. “Look at where a majority of the training in the work world is happening, it’s online,” McDonell said. “It’s an important skill and it should be part of the school system.”
Contract negotiations between the province and OECTA resumed on February 18th. The OECTA also announced a strike for the CDSBEO Feb. 28th.