SOUTH DUNDAS – Schools across the province were shuttered February 21st as teachers took to the picket line in the largest teachers strike since 1997.
Over 160,000 teachers represented by the four main teachers 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 – took part in the strike.
ETFO president Sam Hammond announced an escalation in that union’s work-to-rule campaign on February 24th. Union members will no longer fill in for other teachers instead of a supply teacher being called, use personal funds to pay for school supplies, or add assessment information for school administrators.
“During this phase of strike action, ETFO wants to highlight a long-standing concern, which is that teachers and educators have been filling in education funding gaps themselves by paying for classroom basics out of their own pockets,” said Hammond. “These are items that should be covered by the Ministry of Education and school boards, but aren’t.”
While the union stepped up its work-to-rule campaign, it will not carry out any strikes for the next two weeks. Hammond challenged the Ministry of Education to return to the bargaining table.
“ETFO is asking the government to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate an agreement by Friday, March 6,” he said.
Hammond added that if an agreement is not reached, it will move to the next level of its strike protocol beginning March 9th.
As one union was calling for the province to return to negotiations, another broke off talks late Monday evening (February 24th).
OECTA called off a scheduled province-wide strike for February 27th as the union entered contract talks with the provincial mediator Friday.
Union president Liz Stuart said in a press release that the union had done everything they could to move contract negotiations forward.
“The government was told it was their responsibility to come to the table this week with a plan to reach an agreement that would be acceptable to Catholic teachers,” she said. “This did not occur.”
Stuart said the union has met with mediators over 40 times and made “significant progress”.
AEFO called off a planned one-day strike set for February 27th citing weather concerns.
Secondary school students who attend the Upper Canada District School Board will be out of class on February 28th. Teachers with that board will be on the picket line as part of a rotating strike action announced last week. As with past strikes, Grade 7 and 8 students at UCDSB secondary schools will attend classes as normal.