By Chad Ingram
Rotating one-day strikes by members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario will continue next week if the union and the Ford government are not able to reach a contract resolution before Jan. 31.
Elementary school students in Haliburton County will be affected on two days; Monday Feb. 3 and Thursday Feb. 6. On Feb. 3 the Trillium Lakelands District School Board will be one of a number of boards taking place in a one-day strike and on Feb. 6 all 83000 ETFO members throughout the province are scheduled to hit the picket lines.
ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a press release issued Monday that he is challenging the government to come back to the negotiating table.
“There is nothing to be gained by [Education] Minister [Stephen] Lecce avoiding meaningful and fair contract talks other than further damaging the reputation of the Ford government” Hammond said in the release. “Educators and parents are not going to accept the government’s deep cuts to public education that only serves to harm the quality of education for generations to come. From ETFO’s perspective fair contract talks must include: appropriate funding for special education; a strategy to address classroom violence; maintaining our internationally recognized kindergarten program; fair hiring practices; class sizes that meet the needs of elementary students; and compensation that keeps up with inflation.”
Along with the continuing strikes if a deal is not struck by next week then ETFO members will not take part in any extra-curricular activities. Currently extra-curriculars that take place during the school day have been ongoing. Field trips have also been cancelled and ETFO announced last week that elementary school students would not be receiving report cards. Secondary school students will receive report cards but without comments as job action by members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has been ongoing and also includes rotating one-day strikes.
The Ford government has made compensation for families available to assist with childcare during each day there is a strike. Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP and Ontario Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott released the following statement last week: “While parents are understandably frustrated by teacher union escalation every few years it is unacceptable that union leaders would ramp up strike action and make families across the province scramble for childcare. 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. That’s why our government launched its Support for Parents initiative that puts money directly into the pockets of parents.”