Ontario elementary teachers launching one-day strikes over pay: McGuinty
Published Monday, December 10, 2012 5:15PM EST
Premier Dalton McGuinty rebuked Ontario's public elementary school teachers for launching a wave of one-day walkouts Monday that will spread across the province over the next two weeks, forcing parents to scramble for childcare.
In Ottawa, 50,000 elementary students will see their teachers pick up a picket sign this Wednesday.
"The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has disrupted nine years of labour peace over a disagreement about pay," McGuinty said in a statement.
"It's regrettable that students miss any time learning, and it's unfortunate that families will need to make alternate arrangements."
Although the governing Liberals have the power to end the strikes, McGuinty said they won't intervene.
While he's disappointed that some teachers' unions have put students in the middle, McGuinty said he hopes teachers will take no more than one day away from school.
The government has said it has drawn up legal documents to stop any strikes that stretch beyond a single school day.
The premier argued that in the face of a $14.4-billion deficit, the province can't afford pay hikes for teachers.
But the union said the strikes aren't about pay, but a protest of a controversial new law that gives the government the power to stop strikes and impose a new collective agreement on teachers.
The union should pay for the childcare that parents are now scrambling to find for their kids, said Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod.
"Thirty to fifty dollars is a lot to a lot of Ontario families," she said. "Especially those families who are going without this year because mom or dad doesn't have a job."
On Tuesday, the strikes will spread to the Niagara school board and the province's northwest Keewatin-Patricia board, while teachers in Ottawa-Carleton, Lakehead in Thunder Bay and Hastings-Prince Edward will walk out on Wednesday.
Elementary teachers in York Region, Trillium Lakelands in the Muskoka area and Renfrew say they'll walk off the job Thursday.
All elementary schools in the affected school boards will be closed the day of the strikes.
Every school board in the province will have experienced a teachers' one-day strike by Dec. 20, said Sam Hammond, president of the ETFO.
Teachers are angry about the legislation, which impedes local bargaining and violates their constitutional rights, he said.
"I don't want to be doing this. The 75 members behind us here, my 76,000 members across the province do not want to be doing what they're doing."
But they have no option because Bill 115 is an "attack on democracy," he said.
"The minister could have a huge impact on the situation if she stood up and said: 'OK, I've learned ... we're going to scrap Bill 115, we're going to go back to the negotiating table'," said NDP education critic Peter Tabuns.
Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation withdrew Monday from all non-classroom work, including extra-curricular sports and events such as holiday concerts.
Hundreds of high-school students walked out of class Monday in protest of the legislation.
Some students with the Upper Canada School Board are planning their own protest.
Upset by the withdrawal of after school coaching and support in high schools.
But the focus now is on elementary teachers who are sticking by their plan to kick their protest up a notch with the strikes
With files from the Canadian Press and CTV Ottawa’s Norman Fetterley