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Hamilton teachers on strike Monday

A teacher in Hamilton protests the Ontario government's Bill 115 on Dec. 17, 2012. Courtesy of @Ryborg.

Hamilton teachers are off the job and on the picket lines Monday as the province’s elementary teachers continue to protest the Ontario government’s controversial Bill 115.

“We do not take this action lightly. The loss of local autonomy is very destructive for a local bargaining process that has worked well for decades,” Lisa Hammond, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Teacher Local, said in a statement.

Teachers from three school boards in northern Ontario – Rainbow District School Board, which includes Manitoulin Island, Espanola and Sudbury; James Bay, which includes Moosonee and Moose Factory; and Rainy River – are also on strike.

Students at Lisgar Middle School in Mississauga held their own protest at 12.30 p.m.  Monday. In an email, students said they are protesting the lack of extracurricular activities and “being made the victims in the fight between the Teachers and the Province.”

Toronto, Peel and Durham teachers will strike on Tuesday as will teachers from Greater Essex, Near North, Grand Erie, Waterloo Region and Lambton-Kent boards. Toronto and Durham elementary schools will be closed for the school day.

Most Toronto schools will have pickets, along with other key locations including the Toronto District School Board offices, the Ministry of Education offices, and the constituency offices of MPPs Eric Hoskins, Glen Murray, Kathleen Wynn, and Soo Wong, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said.

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Elementary teachers in Halton, Bluewater and Algoma will strike on Wednesday. Teachers in Thames Valley, which includes London, Woodstock and Elgin; and Limestone, which includes Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington; will strike on Thursday.

“To date, the education minister has yet to do anything to assist local school boards in pursuing fair and respectful negotiations with our members,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.

“[Education Minister Laurel Broten] can end the chaos she has created by repealing Bill 115 and letting local bargaining proceed without interference.”

The province has already reached deals with its French and Catholic boards.

Bill 115 allows the government to impose a two-year contract on teachers which includes a wage freeze, halves sick days and ends teachers’ ability to bank unused sick days.

It also gives Broten the power to end a strike or lockout without debating the issue in the provincial legislature. The government said it would allow the strikes as long they didn’t last more than one day.

If teachers and their local school boards do not reach an agreement by Dec. 31, the province will impose one.