Ontario public elementary teachers plan second day of strikes next week

Ontario public elementary teachers plan second day of strikes next week

Ontario’s public elementary teachers plan to strike a second day next week — which now puts three education unions on the picket lines on Tuesday.

The union made the announcement in a memo sent to all 83,000 members early Thursday morning, saying if no deal with the provincial government is reached four boards will be impacted.

The boards to be targetted Tuesday are Superior Greenstone (Thunder Bay area), Renfrew, Grand Erie and Trillium Lakelands (Haliburton/Kawartha).

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario had previously announced a one-day strike on Monday in Toronto — hitting both the public and Catholic boards (where the union represents early childhood educators), Ottawa and York Region.

On Tuesday, they will join all English Catholic teachers in the province, as well as public high school teachers and support staff in 13 boards, who are also hitting the picket lines.

The elementary teachers’ memo, obtained by the Star, says no contract talks are scheduled, and says the “critical issues” it wants the province to address include smaller classes, better supports for special needs students, a commitment to full-day kindergarten, as well as compensation.

Premier Doug Ford’s government has already announced it will spend up to $48 million per day to repay parents for child-care costs during any work stoppage from teacher strikes.

The daily subsidies of up to $60 per child will be funded by savings from teacher salaries during the walkouts.

The rising tensions with teachers now means all four unions are engaging in job action for the first time in more than 20 years.

The province’s French-board teachers, represented by AEFO, have just begun their largely administrative work-to-rule.

“There is still a pathway to get a deal” and avoid the upcoming strikes, Education Minister Stephen Lecce told reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

“I hope in my heart in that we can get a deal that is a win-win-win proposition” for teachers, boards and the government, he also said.

Sam Hammond, president of the elementary teachers’ union, has accused the government of “trying to bribe parents to get their support” with the child-care reimbursement.

But Lecce said the move will help support families because “we recognize the impact of union escalation on families is real, and unions expect hard-working families to bear the costs of their cyclical labour action.”

No receipts are required for the payouts — which are also retroactive for any work stoppages already this school year — and are set at $60 per day per child up to six years old in any school-based day care impacted by a strike, $40 for kindergarten students, and $25 for students in Grades 1-7.

Families of children with special needs, from kindergarten to Grade 12, can receive $40 per day.

The payments will come out of the potential $60 million in daily savings if all teachers are on strike.

Parents have to register online, and on Wednesday alone about 12,000 had done so.

The last time Ontario parents received such payouts was back in 1997, during another tumultuous time in the education sector.

Because Ontario’s teacher unions also bargain for support and professional staff in schools, Catholic, French and public boards can all be impacted by just one union’s job action.

On Monday, Toronto public and Catholic schools will be impacted — the elementary teachers’ union represents early childhood educators there — as well as the Ottawa-Carleton and York Region boards.

The Toronto Catholic board will be hit two days in a row, but says full-day kindergarten classes will run as usual on Monday, but all of its schools will close Tuesday because of the province-wide Catholic teacher strike.

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Meanwhile, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation says after next Tuesday it will take a hiatus from day-long strikes until the end of exam period.

The only teacher union currently bargaining with the province and school board associations is the AEFO.

No dates have been scheduled with the other three unions.

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