Ontario’s elementary teachers announce another one day strike on Friday

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Educators picket outside the Bickford Centre in Toronto on Wednesday Dec. 11, 2019. Public high school teachers in Ontario will hit the picket lines today for their third job action in as many weeks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO  The union representing Ontario’s elementary teachers announced Sunday a fifth rotating one-day strike set for Friday, meaning walkouts will affect various school boards each day of the coming week.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said the latest job action will happen at the Ontario North East and Bluewater school boards on Friday.

The strike is just the latest development in escalating tensions between the four major teachers’ unions and the provincial government, who have been bargaining a new collective agreement since the beginning of September.

The elementary teachers are following in the footsteps of the secondary teachers’ union, which has been holding rotating strikes since mid-December.

The first of the elementary teachers’ strikes are set to take place on Monday at York Region, Toronto and Ottawa-Carleton boards. More schools will be suttered for strikes on Tuesday in Grand Erie, Trillium Lakelands, Renfrew and Superior-Greenstone boards.

Teachers at Thames Valley, Rainbow and Rainy River school boards will strike on Wednesday and at Avon-Maitland, Halton, Niagara and Lakehead on Thursday.

ETFO President Sam Hammond has said the main issues in bargaining include classroom size, more resources for students with special needs, protection of their kindergarten program and fair compensation.

“(Education Minister Stephen) Lecce seems prepared to let his government’s damaging cuts to public education proceed instead of taking a responsible approach at the bargaining table,” said Hammond in a press release Sunday, adding that the government hasn’t returned to the bargaining table since their last session on Dec. 19.

“We continue to urge the Minister to get back to the table to discuss the critical issues that parents and educators care about.”

The Ministry of Education didn’t issue a new statement on Sunday, but Lecce said Saturday that it was “unacceptable” for the union to ramp up job action.

Lecce has maintained that compensation is the main sticking point in contract talks.

Meanwhile, his ministry said more than 100,000 parents have signed up for their Support for Parents program, which compensates parents with children up to Grade 7 for some of the child-care costs incurred during strikes.

All four major teachers unions in Ontario are in the midst of job action.

But only the union representing Ontario’s French school system has contract talks scheduled with the government.

On Friday, the president of the union for Ontario’s secondary school teachers said their one-day strike on Tuesday will be the last during the high school exams period.

Ontario’s English Catholic teachers also plan to hold one-day strikes on Tuesday.

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