Some Halton schools will close for 2 days due to strikes

Published January 28, 2020 at 6:57 pm

If you have young children in any Halton District School Board (HDSB) schools, you should note that schools will be closed for two non-consecutive days in the coming weeks due to rotating stri

If you have young children in any Halton District School Board (HDSB) schools, you should note that schools will be closed for two non-consecutive days in the coming weeks due to rotating strikes. 

An upcoming one-day strike will also impact Catholic school children in all grades. 

The HDSB says that Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) members will be engaged in strike action in public school boards across Ontario this week and next unless progress is made at the central bargaining table. 

The HDSB—which oversees schools in Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, and Oakville —will be affected by the strikes. ETFO announced it will hold a one-day walkout impacting HDSB elementary schools on Monday, Feb. 3 in addition to a province-wide walkout impacting all Ontario public school boards on Thursday, Feb. 6. These walk-outs will occur if a tentative agreement is not reached by Friday, Jan. 31.  

The strikes are being held due to fraught negotiations between teachers’ unions and the province. Unions say they’re fighting for smaller class sizes and funding for education, while the province says teachers are asking for unreasonable raises (the province has offered a 1 per cent raise).

“There is nothing to be gained by [Education] Minister [Stephen] Lecce avoiding meaningful and fair contract talks other than further damaging the reputation of the Ford government,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond in a statement. 

“Educators and parents are not going to accept the government’s deep cuts to public education that only serve to harm the quality of education for generations to come. From ETFO’s perspective, fair contract talks must include appropriate funding for special education; a strategy to address classroom violence; maintaining our internationally recognized kindergarten program; fair hiring practices; class sizes that meet the needs of elementary students; and compensation that keeps up with inflation.”

“I challenge the minister to send his negotiators back to the table to address these issues because in four months of talks from August through December 2019, his negotiators had no mandate to discuss them.”

The ETFO isn’t the only union to engage in job action. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has also held one-day walk-outs. 

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has also announced that it is planning a second one-day, province-wide walkout on Tuesday, Feb. 4. 

Teachers in publicly funded Catholic district school boards across Ontario will not be reporting to work or performing any of their teaching duties on that day.

“We know Ontarians are growing impatient with these negotiations. Frankly, we share their frustration,” said OECTA President Liz Stuart in a statement. 

“But we cannot allow this government to wear us all down and force us to accept their devastating cuts. The long-term consequences for our schools and our students are simply unacceptable. Strike action is tough for everyone, but it is a sacrifice we need to make to show the government we will not be deterred in our efforts to protect what we have worked so hard to build.”

Lecce responded to the ETFO’s announcement and said the strikes are hurting families. 

“Teacher union leaders once again are breaking their promise to parents as they proceed with a full one-day withdrawal of services, province-wide. The consequences of union-led escalation are real, as families are forced to find child care on short notice,” Lecce said in a Jan. 27 statement. 

“Repeated escalation at the expense of our students, to advance higher compensation, higher wages, and even more generous benefits, is unacceptable for parents and students in our province. We firmly believe students should be in class, which is why we continue to stand ready to negotiate to reach a deal Ontario students deserve.”

The ETFO also announced that beginning Feb. 3, 2020, its members will not participate in extracurricular activities, unless progress is made in negotiations. Elementary schools will communicate with affected students directly with regards to postponements or cancellations.

UPDATE: Multiple media reports indicate the province will bargain with the ETFO tomorrow (Jan. 29).

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article cited the strike days at another local board. We regret the error.  

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