All four public teachers’ unions to strike on Friday

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ONTARIO – For the first time in almost 23 years, the entire public education system in Ontario will grind to a halt this Friday, February 21, for a round of collective job action co-ordinated among the four teachers’ unions that are all engaged in labour disputes with the provincial government.

Classes and transportation will be cancelled this Friday for all schools within the local Rainbow District School Board (RDSB). However, the schools will remain open and continue offering childcare, before- and after-school programs and spaces for community use. 

RDSB spokesperson Nicole Charette issued a statement ahead of the job action to indicate the impacts that would occur beyond the cancellation of regular classes.

“This notice includes classes at Jean Hanson Public School, the Children’s Treatment Centre (CTC), the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program (CAMHP), the Applied Behaviour Analysis Program (ABA) at the Ruth MacMillan Centre, the Northern Support Initiative (NSI) Program at the Ruth MacMillan Centre and the Simulated Healthy Independent Living Opportunities Program (SHILO) on Gill Street,” she wrote.

“It also includes Barrydowne College, the N’Swakamok Native Alternative School, the Attendance Centre and the Adult Day School.”

Students who are taking dual-credit classes with Cambrian College will be unaffected by the job action.

“It is important that parents and guardians make alternative arrangements for the care of their children. Parents and guardians will not be able to send their children to school on Friday, February 21. (RDSB) thanks parents and guardians and students for their ongoing patience and understanding,” concluded the statement.

Autumn 1997 was the last time all public teachers have walked off the job together province-wide, with that dispute over Bill 160 resulting in 126,000 teachers hanging up the chalk for two weeks.

Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, was a government initiative designed to centralize a great deal of the negotiations between roles and responsibilities of teachers. It also imposed greater workloads on educators and led to reductions in staffing.

It was the largest job action taken by teachers in North American history.

This Friday’s job action involves nearly 200,000 Ontario teachers and education workers who are stationed in some 5,000 schools divided among 72 school boards. This will affect slightly more than two million students between Kindergarten and Grade 12 in Ontario.

The issues of contention vary depending on school board, but a common problem is a government-wide wage freeze of one percent per year, which contrasts with union requests of a two-percent increase to match the rate of inflation.

Class sizes, hiring practices, mandatory online learning, special education cuts and changes to the Kindergarten model are some of the other issues on the table with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).

Both ETFO and OSSTF have not scheduled any rotating job action for this week apart from the one-day mega strike.