Ontario parents prepare for massive one-day teacher walkout
Published Friday, December 14, 2012 10:00AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 14, 2012 7:40PM EST
Ontario parents are preparing for one-day strike action by elementary teachers next week that will shut down hundreds of schools and affect 328,000 students in the Greater Toronto Area alone.
Elementary and junior high school teachers with the Toronto District School Board are set to walkout Tuesday after the union sent word confirming the job action, the board has confirmed.
According to reports, the nearby Peel District School Board and Durham District School Board are also preparing to walkout on Tuesday.
The Peel Board said the exact date has not been confirmed by its union; PDSB has only been told the action would occur in December.
Meanwhile the Durham Board said in a statement that its teachers have been informed by their union that a walkout will take place on Tuesday, though the board has not received an official statement from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.
Unofficially, it was widely expected that teachers in all three boards would stage a walkout Tuesday at both the junior high school and elementary levels, along with a number of others around the province.
Parents of affected school children told CTV Toronto they don’t appreciate being caught in the middle of the labour dispute between the province and the teachers union.
“It’s hard for the kids and it’s hard for the parents and I just don’t like the situation at all,” said parent Jennifer Davidson.
Tuesday’s strike will affect 784 schools and nearly 291 daycares that operate on school property may also be affected.
It is up to each individual daycare whether or not to open on Tuesday, and several opted to close.
“We decided that it was just safer to prepare in advance and let parents make other options,” said Arynne Wright, the director of the Treetop Children’s Centre which is located inside Oriole Park Junior Public School.
The closing of privately run daycare centres frustrated parent Jeff Silver.
“I wouldn’t expect teachers who are picketing here to cause problems for parents dropping off kids at a private daycare,” he said. “So that’s really disappointing actually.”
Lichu Chen said the walkout is disruptive but she’ll just have to deal and make arrangements for her daughter.
“She’s either going to have to come to work for me or I’ll just have to stay home. There’s no choice,” she said.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Laurel Broten said the strikes were “an incredibly disappointing development” that drags teachers, students and families into the dispute between the union and the government. However, Broten said she wouldn't block a one-day job action.
She said that the ETFO should release the schedule of its planned one-day strikes to allow parents to arrange child care alternatives.
“There’s only one week left of school,” she said in an interview. “It’s not fair to leave parents and students in the dark when we already know that they have a plan with respect to this last week of school.”
The ETFO has been in a legal strike position since Dec. 10., and members haven’t been participating in field trips, play days or voluntary extra-curricular activities.
The union has said it will provide 72 hours notice before staging a walkout.
The three boards are expected to confirm their intentions Saturday morning.
In a letter sent home to parents, the TDSB said it was preparing for a walkout next week.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has criticized the teachers for involving students in what he calls a pay dispute. But the union insists the job action is not about money, but Bill 115.
The union is fighting the bill, which includes a new anti-strike law that gives the government the power to impose a new collective agreement on teachers. The union said the law is unconstitutional and violates their collective bargaining rights.
The NDP criticized the Liberals for their handling of the dispute and blamed them for escalating the situation between the union and the government.
"I think the problem in Ontario is a hamfisted government that didn't do the proper thing in terms of having a mature and thoughtful dialogue with the educational workers of this province," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
“And I think that it’s students and parents that are paying the price.”
If teachers don't reach local deals with their school boards by Dec. 31, the province will put its own solution in place, freezing wages for most instructors and cutting benefits, such as sick days.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness