All four Ontario teachers’ unions, representing nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers, will hold a one-day province-wide strike on Feb. 21.
A strike involving the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (EFTO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and Association des Enseignantes et des Enseignants Franco-Ontariens (AEFO) will affect nearly 5,000 schools and leave more than two million students out of class.
It’s the first time since 1997 that teachers and education workers will be out of the classrooms on the same day.
Ontario teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 31 and months of negotiations have yielded little progress.
“What you’re seeing here is a show of unity between all of us,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof. “The different things on the table hardly matter in the face of a government that wants to slash fundamental supports for all of our students and that’s why we’re prepared to stand up together.”
Bargaining over the last several months appears to have yielded little progress. High school teachers have not been at the table since Dec. 16. Elementary teachers said they were close to a deal recently, but the government changed several positions – to ones that were untenable for the union – at the last minute. French teachers were in talks Wednesday, but union president Remi Sabourin was not optimistic.
“Things are stalling,” he said.
Among the key issues that keep stalling negotiations are compensation, class sizes, e-learning, full-day kindergarten, special education funding and teacher hiring.
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.
The government has been providing parents with up to $60 for each day their child is out of school due to job action by the teachers’ unions.