Credits: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO — Ontario parents with children in public elementary schools should brace for one-day teacher strikes.
Education Minister Laurel Broten said Thursday she will not interfere in plans by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) to launch one-day rotating strikes in school boards across the province.
Broten acknowledged it was an inconvenience for parents but argued one day off school would not jeopardize student learning.
“I have carefully weighed the balance of legal strike action and the needs of students and parents to have stability in their schools,” Broten said. “Given that ETFO has provided five days notice to families, and given that they have assured families that this will be only a one-day strike, I am prepared to let one day of legal strike action occur.”
Broten has the power under Bill 115 to impose a contract and halt strikes — something she says she’s prepared to do if strikes extend beyond one day or if ETFO fails to provide at least 72 hours notice.
Local school boards in the Avon Maitland District, an area north of London, and the Ontario North East District, which includes Timmins, were notified by ETFO that their members would not be on the job Monday.
ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement that Broten could resolve this “chaos” she has created by repealing Bill 115, and giving union locals the “latitude” needed to reach agreements.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said his government has worked well with teachers and he believes most understand the current need for restraint.
“We just don’t believe that a one-day strike warrants the heavy hand of government,” McGuinty said, in defence of Broten’s position.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan pointed out his government has given teachers a 23% wage increase, better benefits and pensions and fewer days in the classroom.
“It turns out that the (Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation) couldn’t deliver their membership, and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation, in my view, have been erratic for years. They have not put the interests of students first,” Duncan said. “I regret that even one day will be lost. I’m told that this is the way we need to approach this.”
PC Leader Tim Hudak, who backed the Liberals on Bill 115, called the government’s decision to permit strikes “unbelievable,” suggesting it was allowing unions to run the province.