Elementary school teachers hold one-day strike, picket along Broadway

January 31, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

Members of the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO) employed by the Upper Grand District School Board were on the march up and down Broadway on Tuesday, January 28, during a one-day strike to pressure the Ontario government’s education minister and his team to get back to contract talks.

School boards around the province have been holding the strikes over the past few weeks.

The EFTO began rotating strikes throughout the province and has plans to continue this next week.

The province’s largest education union, with 83,000 members, announced on Monday that it would stage a full province-wide walkout on February 6, as well as rotating strikes across several school boards unless an agreement is reached with the provincial government. The union told its members in a memo on Monday that the one-day province-wide and rotating strikes would continue ‘each week’ going forward unless there is a deal.

Talks between the government and the four teachers’ unions are at a stalemate. The two sides have been unable to come to any agreement on funding cuts, class sizes, and compensation.

“Our world-class education system is in jeopardy,” said Gundi Barbour, Upper Grand EFTO local president. “Minister Lecce and the Ford government are decimating our education system with cuts and a complete disregard for the variety of student needs our teachers face on a daily basis. Teachers in Upper Grand are professionals who care deeply about the students they teach, however, they cannot do their jobs effectively with increased class size, violence in the classroom and a lack of supports.”

On the other side, Education minister Stephen Lecce said the strikes are ‘unacceptable.”

“Teacher union leaders once again are breaking their promise to parents as they proceed with a full one-day withdrawal of services province-wide,” Mr. Lecce said in a statement. “The consequences of union-led escalation are real as families are forced to find childcare on short notice.”

According to Mr. Lecce the main stumbling block in negotiations has been wages. The unions are asking for a two-per-cent increase in the face of the government’s wage-cap legislation meant to limit public-sector pay increase to one per cent.

Union leaders argue that their members are simply asking for an increase in line with inflation.

“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 the province,” Mr. Lecce said. “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.”

The strikes have been a pain to parents who are scrambling to find alternatives for their children when the schools are not operating.


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