Public elementary school teachers in Thunder Bay will stage a one-day strike on Wednesday, forcing parents to make alternate arrangements for their children's care.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario gave the Lakehead District Public School Board 72 hours notice of the strike Sunday morning, which means about 370 full-time teachers and 150 occasional teachers will walk off the job.
Union president Ellen Chambers said there is no option but to send the government a message because she said Bill 115 limits local collective bargaining.
"This action is directed to the government because we are unable to reach any real negotiated contract,” she said.
Chambers said she hopes the three-days' notice will give parents time to make other arrangements for their children.
"I'm expecting that there will certainly be a mixed reaction,” Chambers said.
“However we are following the Labour Relations Act. We have a legal right to strike.”
After hearing from the teachers union, the Lakehead school board issued a news release which said all elementary schools would be closed on Dec. 12 — including the Grade 7 and 8 classes located in Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate.
Students in JK to Grade 8 who ride the bus to school will not be picked up on Wednesday.
However, daycares located in elementary schools will remain open.
"It's unfortunate that we have had to move to the extreme measure of closing all elementary schools,” school board director Catherine Siemieniuk said.
“The safety and security of our students were the deciding factors.”
Siemieniuk noted the teachers' union has indicated it plans to picket at some schools. Teachers' representatives have told the board they understand that parents taking children to daycare will have to cross picket lines, and "will be very respectful of that,” she said.
Chambers agreed parents shouldn’t have any problems getting their children to daycare, despite the picket lines.
Daycare centres operate in 18 public elementary schools around the city.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has said the government won't stop the planned walkouts since they are so far planned for one day. The elementary teachers' union has also promised to give boards 72-hours notice.
Education Minister Laurel Broten said the government has drawn up legal documents to stop any strikes that stretch beyond a single school day.
There are about 6,200 students in Lakehead elementary schools.