Province-wide education strike February 21st

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation members walk the picket line outside of South Grenville District High School during their one-day walkout on January 15th. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

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.

ETFO strike sends teachers to the picket line – Upper Canada District School Board elementary teachers were on the picket line January 29th as part of a one-day, province-wide strike action by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. The union announced continued strike action this week with UCDSB elementary schools being hit with back-to-back strikes. On February 5th students are out of school as the board faces another day of rotating strikes. Strike action on February 6th is part of a province-wide one-day walk out. Pictured above, ETFO members walk the picket line outside of Winchester Public School. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.