Toronto, Peel elementary school teachers to strike on Tuesday
Chris Kitching , Sandie Benitah and Chris Fox, cp24.com
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 5:47AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:34PM EST
Elementary school teachers working for the Toronto and Peel District School Board will walk off the job on Tuesday, sources tell CP24.
They will strike for one day on Dec. 18 as part of a rotating protest among Ontario elementary teachers.
Officials confirmed that in Toronto, nearly 173,500 elementary and junior high school students will be affected as teachers from 474 schools plan to walk out.
However, all non-teaching staff are expected to report to work.
"We are the largest board in Canada, we have a huge amount of students and we just won't be able to provide the proper amount of supervision," TDSB Spokesperson Sherry Schwartz-Maltz told CP24 Thursday night. "Safety trumps all. If we can't ensure safety we can't have the kids in the school."
Officials working for the Peel school board have not confirmed teachers will join the picket line that day but sources tell CP24 that that is the plan.
In Peel, 109,063 students would be affected as teachers from 202 elementary schools are expected to take part.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has promised to give parents at least 72 hours notice before teachers at a school board walk off the job.Parents are being asked to check ahead to make sure the school-run daycares in their neighbourhood will be open.
"Anything we know parents will know," Schwartz-Maltz told CP24.
Today, teachers working at York Region elementary schools walked the picket line -- the first school board in the GTA to be hit by the planned walkout.
York Region District School Board kept schools open during the strike, but officials urged parents to make alternate arrangements for their children because schools don't have enough staff on hand to supervise students.
Because of the strike, YRDSB cancelled buses and other transportation services, programming and classroom instruction, and before and after-school programs at its elementary schools.
The teachers, who are represented by the ETFO, picketed outside the YRDSB head office in Aurora and the constituency offices of all seven York Region MPPs.
As the bitter labour dispute shows no sign of slowing, the ETFO is suggesting that it may hold additional strikes, if it feels the need to do so.
“I would certainly advocate that if (Education Minister Laurel Broten) believes the teachers are only prepared to strike for one day, she’s wrong,” said David Clegg, ETFO-York Region local president. “If we have to prove our point we’ll be out here again.”
In response to that threat, Broten said the province will only allow one-day strikes to take place.
She urged the ETFO to inform parents of its one-day strike plans for next week.
“If you have a plan make sure you tell Ontario families what it is because they deserve that information,” Broten told CP24.
Public elementary school teachers have resorted to one-day strikes because of their labour dispute with the province over Bill 115, which imposes a two-year wage freeze and limits collective bargaining rights for teachers and support staff, and gives the provincial government the power to end strikes.
Teachers’ unions are challenging the legislation in court, arguing it is unconstitutional.
The unions have until Dec. 31 to reach a collective agreement with local school boards before a new contract is forced upon them, but Clegg said the government has made it impossible to negotiate an agreement because Bill 115's financial constraints handcuff local school boards.
Broten accused the ETFO of walking away from negotiations when the government was a willing participant.
"You can't reach an agreement with someone who will not talk to you," Broten said.
Before teachers set up a picket line at his office, Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees said his constituents in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora don't like the strikes "one bit," and he called on teachers to end their job action to avoid further disruptions in the classroom.
Klees called on Broten to exercise her authority under Bill 115 and halt the strikes.
The Tories helped the Liberals to pass the controversial piece of legislation by voting in favour of it, but Klees said his party was assured there would be no strikes.
“This is unacceptable. The reason that I and my colleagues voted in support of Bill 115 ... is that so days like this would not happen," Klees told CP24 reporter Cam Woolley.
Teachers with Trillium Lakelands and Renfrew County school boards are also holding one-day strikes Thursday, but elementary schools in those districts are closed as teachers picket.
This is the fourth day of rotating one-day strikes that have forced parents to scramble to arrange child care.
Work-to-rule in place
Toronto teachers have already started work-to-rule action by withdrawing from administrative duties.
By Dec. 20, every school board in Ontario will have experienced a one-day strike by elementary teachers, said the ETFO.
Teachers in Simcoe County, Kawartha Pine Ridge and Upper Grand school districts are set to strike Friday.
Premier Dalton McGuinty and Broten have characterized the dispute as a disagreement over pay and accused teachers' unions of putting students in the middle.
Both have said the government cannot afford to give teachers a raise because of the deficit and promises to maintain all-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.
“Ontarians expect us to hold the line when it comes to our fiscal realities right now,” Broten said.
Although McGuinty's Liberal government has the ability to intervene, he and Broten have repeatedly stated the government will not prevent strikes that are limited to one day.
Meanwhile, high school students protested Bill 115 at Queen's Park on Thursday afternoon in an attempt to pressure the province and teachers' unions to resolve the dispute and restore extra-curricular activities that have been withdrawn.
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