Canada
First wave of elementary school strikes start in Ontario

Credits: Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer/QMI Agency

IAN ROBERTSON | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Elementary school teachers protesting provincial wage freezes will start disrupting classes on Monday.

The first in a series of one-day rotating strikes will take place in Ontario's north and the London, Ont., area.

And while the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) has not formally announced any job action for the Toronto area, media reports said teachers will target school boards in York Region Thursday.

A union spokesman Sunday refused comment on whether teachers will strike this week in York schools.

EFTO president Sam Hammond has promised to give parents 72 hours notice about any strike action.

That time frame gives parents advance warning in order to make arrangements for children.

The union has announced teachers will walk off the job Monday in the Avon Maitland area -- north of London -- and Ontario North East District board, which includes Temagami, Timmins and Hearst.

The walkouts will continue Tuesday in Niagara Region. And on Wednesday, teachers will target Ottawa, Hastings County -- the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board is centred in Belleville -- and the Lakehead District, which includes North Bay.

"There are two solutions to the chaos that the minister of education has created," Hammond said in a statement. "Along with repealing Bill 115, the minister needs to step aside and give locals the latitude to have concrete and respectful discussions with all options on the table, in order to reach collective agreements."

The budget-battling provincial government brought in Bill 115 -- the Putting Students First Act -- after public high school and elementary teachers balked at matching a wage-and-sick benefits-cutting deal Catholic school teachers accepted.

The public and high school teachers were given until Dec. 31 to reach contract agreements.

EFTO and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
(OSSTF) last week announced members had been directed to stop participating in extracurricular activities.

"For more than one million students in the province's public schools, this will mean an end to sports, clubs, concerts, plays, art exhibitions and more," their statement said.

Some students, including in Toronto, Oakville, Waterloo and Niagara Falls on Monday, are planning demonstrations to protest the lack of after-school teacher participation, which has already led to several programs being cancelled.

Education Minister Laurel Broten last week said she would not interfere with the union's right to hold rotating one-day strikes but vowed to step in if they failed to end in one day or if the same board was targeted twice.

She can legally force teachers back to work.

-- Files from Alison Langley, Sun Media

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