All public schools across Ontario will close for one day as teachers announce co-ordinated strike
TORONTO -- More than two million students across Ontario will be staying at home next week, as all four teachers unions hold a joint one-day strike affecting every single public school across the province on Feb. 21.
The one-day strike will impact 1.4-million elementary students and more than 500,000 high school students – all of whom have already been affected by rotating or one-day strikes over the past three months.
Political strategist Jim Warren said the temperature in this ongoing battle is going from "medium to high" and will put more pressure on the Ford government to settle the dispute with teachers.
"As we get closer to the end of the school year, there's going to be increased pressure on the government to make sure kids get their grades," Warren told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday.
Warren added that while the unions have taken a "slow burn" approach, they also run the risk of alienating parent support if they feel their child's education is in jeopardy.
"You don't want to upset the people who pay your wages, which is ultimately the parents," Warren said.
"The risk is that they turn the parents against them and put them in the Ford camp."
The news came as hundreds of elementary teachers were protesting outside a downtown Toronto hotel today where Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce was speaking.
During the event, organized by the Canadian Club of Toronto, Lecce said he had just learned of the escalating job action moments before the speech, calling it an "irresponsible choice".
"It's time to get a deal," he said to the union leaders in the audience. "The students of this province deserve to be in class."
Teachers filled the sidewalk outside the hotel, stretching nearly the entire block. They held signs criticizing the government's plan to increase class sizes and calling for Lecce to be fired.
Teachers across the province, who have been without a contract since August, have been holding rotating strikes and other job actions in an attempt to force the Progressive Conservative government to reach a deal.
The unions involved in next week's strike include the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO).
With files from The Canadian Press.