Ontario elementary teachers threaten strikes in December

Teachers will be in legal strike position by Christmas: ETFO

Elementary school teachers in Ontario are ramping up job action in protest of the Ontario government’s anti-strike law and warning of disruptions in the province’s schools next month.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is planning strikes in December for which parents will get 72 hours’ notice. Strikes would see teachers absent from classrooms, according to the union.

Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, imposes contracts on teachers that freezes their wages for two years and allows the education minister to stop any strike action.

"It is unfortunate that we have been placed in the position of having to strike by education minister Laurel Broten, but we will provide parents with ample notice to ensure the safety of students," ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.

Broten and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty have defended the bill, saying wage freezes are necessary to help eliminate the province’s $14 billion deficit. Broten has since said teachers will be ordered back to work if they strike.

High school teachers in York Region and Niagara, Ont., rejected tentative deals reached with their school boards because they felt they would be “selling out” to the anti-strike legislation. However, high school teachers with the Upper Grand District School Board near Guelph, Ont., ratified their agreement with the board, and the premier has said he is hopeful other teachers will accept a deal.

“We've had one ratified, a couple that have been rejected,” he told the Canadian Press. “We're working as hard as we can to lay the groundwork for some negotiated settlements.”

Elementary teachers and education workers at four school boards have begun work-to-rule campaigns, which will see them withdrawing from staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences and extra-curricular activities.

The ETFO, the province’s biggest teachers’ union representing 76,000 education workers, said teachers across the province will be in a legal strike position come Christmas break.

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