All schools, all grades, across Ontario to close for massive strike on 21st

By Roderick Benns

All unions, all schools across Ontario are now bracing for a province-wide strike Friday Feb. 21.

All elementary and secondary teachers and education workers represented by the four major education unions in Ontario will take a stand against the Ford government’s education cuts and policies by participating in a one-day walkout across the province.

Members of the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) will all strike on February 21.

This is the first time since the political protest of 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education affiliates will all be out of their classrooms on the same day. Nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers will strike across 72 school boards, affecting nearly 5,000 schools across the province in protest of the government funding cuts to education.

“We are already seeing the effects of this government’s reckless education cuts,” says OECTA President Liz Stuart. “The Ford government is reducing supports for students with special education needs and mental health issues. It is squeezing students into overcrowded classes and forcing high school students to take e-learning courses. If we allow the government to implement its plan fully, thousands of teaching positions and tens of thousands of course options will be lost.”

Bruce Reain, chair of the board of trustees at Trillium Lakelands District School Board, tells the Advocate the continued strike action in the province “is deeply concerning, but as teacher unions have similar concerns and issues, coordinated protests are to be expected.”

“This is a provincial dispute but the impact is being felt at all levels across the education sector,” says Reain. “It is our hope and desire that provincial agreements can be reached very soon so that our students can be in their classrooms.”

ETFO President Sam Hammond, in a press release says, “Our unions and members helped build Ontario’s world-class education system. By not seriously addressing the issues critical to students and student learning, the Ford government has made a sham of contract talks over the last seven months.”

Among the key issues are compensation, class sizes, full-day kindergarten, special education funding, e-learning, and teacher hiring. Unions are asking for wage increases of around two per cent to keep up with inflation. Last year the government passed legislation capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for the next three years, something the unions are challenging in court declaring it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

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