ETFO York Region Teachers hold a one day strike on Dec. 13, 2012 in Aurora.
Credits: Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO - ETFO president Sam Hammond says he's aware a day-long strike by thousands of GTA-area teachers was an inconvenience for many parents of young students.
But, Hammond says he and his Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario members are fighting for something more important -- freedom and democracy for all.
Hammond joined about 300 striking public elementary school teachers outside Toronto District School Board headquarters on Tuesday, a day when more than 20,000 elementary school teachers from Toronto, Durham and Peel walked out of classrooms to picket, march, chant and dance in protest of Bill 115. The recently enacted legislation freezes teachers' wages, cuts allowable sick days and limits their ability to strike.
School boards from Windsor, Sarnia and Lambton also participated in the day-long action.
"To parents, we realize this is an inconvenience for you," Hammond said as hundreds of ETFO members marched behind him, pumping fists, toting signs and shouting slogans.
"We are standing up for everyone in this province, in terms of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this country and the interference in our collective bargaining process," he said.
Even with about three days notice, the day-long strike left many parents scrambling to find day care centres and other places to leave their children for the day.
Hammond called Super Tuesday -- the largest yet of rotating strikes by the ETFO's 76,000 teachers -- a "regrettable" necessity.
"Nobody wants to be out here today," he said. "My members would rather be in their classrooms."
Hundreds of protesting teachers outside the ministry of education building at Bay and Wellesley Sts. stopped around 9 a.m. and bowed their heads in a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Striking teachers positioned themselves outside various GTA school and MPP constituency offices. Education Minister Laurel Broten called the one-day strike action "disappointing" but said the government would not step in unless it exceeded one day.
Hammond noted that on Dec. 31, the government is expected to block teachers' strike action through Bill 115 and a collective agreement with teachers will automatically come into effect under that legislation.
"If this minister imposes a collective agreement on ETFO members or any local in this province, my members have voted to implement a day of political protest, and that will happen," Hammond said, adding that he is not worried about possible consequences.
Tuesday's strike action meant the reported closure of more than 1,000 elementary schools around Ontario.