Elementary teachers resume strike action amid mounting job actions from Ontario unions

TORONTO — Elementary teachers kicked off a week of education labour disruptions that will see teachers in nearly all of the major unions walk out at various points over contentious contract talks with the government.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario brought the latest in a series of rotating strikes to the Bluewater, Grand Erie, Halton, Ontario North East, Renfrew County, Superior-Greenstone and Trillium Lakelands school boards on Monday. It marked the first day of ETFO's intensified job action after three long days of renewed bargaining broke down late Friday.

ETFO members will now be walking out at each board twice a week, instead of once in a two-week period, including a provincewide strike on Thursday.

English Catholic teachers are set to hold their second provincewide strike Tuesday, the same day the union representing high school teachers plans to resume its own series of rotating strikes.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation paused its job actions during the recent exam period, but said some members will be back on the picket lines on Tuesday.

High schools will be closed at: the Lakehead, Lambton Kent, Thames Valley, Waterloo Region, York Region, Halton and Kawartha Pine Ridge school boards.

All four major teachers' unions have been without contracts since Aug. 31, and are all engaged in some form of job action.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association met for one day of bargaining with the government Monday for the first time since talks broke off last month. But no deal was reached and no further dates are scheduled.

The union representing teachers in the French system have negotiations scheduled this week.

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 measure in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

Teachers' unions, particularly the three representing secondary teachers, are opposed to class size increases and mandatory e-learning requirements imposed by the government. The Tories announced last March that average secondary school class sizes would jump from 22 to 28 and four e-learning courses would be mandatory for graduation.

The province has since scaled back those increases, to an average class size of 25 and two e-learning courses, but the unions say that's not good enough.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press