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Elementary rotating strikes resume after Ontario-wide walkout

Last Updated Feb 7, 2020 at 12:23 pm EDT

Teachers from Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School picket at Queen Street and Lansdowne Avenue on Jan. 20, 2020. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

Public elementary teachers were back on strike at several boards on Friday, including the largest one in Toronto, as the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario resumed its rotating strikes a day after a province-wide walkout.

Teachers hit the picket lines in the Algoma, Greater Essex County, Hamilton-Wentworth, Limestone, Moosonee, Moose Factory, Niagara, Toronto, Waterloo and York Region school boards.

ETFO members at the Bloorview, John McGivney Children’s Centre, KidsAbility, and Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre school authorities also walked off the job, along with early childhood educators at the Toronto Catholic board.

Union president Sam Hammond has said the union was close to a deal with the government after three days of talks last week, but the province’s negotiators suddenly tabled new proposals at the 11th hour that ETFO couldn’t accept.

Hammond said key issues include special education funding, full-day kindergarten, hiring regulations and addressing classroom violence.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce maintains that teachers are escalating strikes to advance higher compensation.

Unions are asking for wage increases of around two per cent to keep up with inflation, but the government passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

All four major teachers’ unions are engaged in job action, but only one – the union representing teachers in the French system – is still in bargaining.

The Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), announced Friday it will also begin holding weekly provincewide strikes next week.

Union president Remi Sabourin said in a statement that the first walkout is planned for next Thursday, Feb. 13.

The job action, dubbed Phase 3 by the union, is in direct response to recent bargaining that “went nowhere,” Sabourin said.

“Phase 3 is meant to convey to the government that we can’t just keep staring at each other pointlessly at the bargaining table,” he said.

AEFO has 12,000 members in the French-language elementary and high school system.

Meanwhile, ETFO is planning a second provincewide strike for next Tuesday, Feb. 11.