Hamilton parents frustrated by teacher labour dispute

Some Hamilton parents say they're overwhelmed and frustrated with Friday's teacher strike that never was.
Scott Potter (centre) with his two children Noah (left) and Shae (right). Potter says he's incredibly frustrated by the situation that's been unfolding in Hamilton schools between educators and the government. (Supplied)

Some Hamilton parents say they're overwhelmed and frustrated with Friday's teacher strike that never was.

Elementary teachers were set to walk off the job Friday morning in protest of Bill 115 and the contracts that had been forced on them earlier this month by the provincial government. But at 4 a.m. Friday, hours before the strike was to take place, the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that the planned walkout would be illegal.

Teachers were ushered back to work, but the move left many parents scrambling.

Hamilton father of two Scott Potter paid to have someone come and watch his kids Friday morning.

Then he got to the office, opened his email and found out school was back on.

"Who sends emails at 5:30 in the morning?" Potter said. "I called the school and said my kids won't be coming — they're striking too."

Potter says he'd initially been "a fence sitter" in the debate, as his mother was an education assistant in the Hamilton system for decades. But lately the teachers have fallen out of favour in his home.

"Now, when it affects my kids … it's tough to explain to a five and six-year-old why they can't go to school."

Tina Jordan with her daughters Ashleigh (left) and Taylor along with Chester the boston terrier. (Supplied)

Hamilton mother of two Tina Jordan kept her youngest daughter home even though school was in session.

"I'm frustrated with the entire process," Jordan said. "Enough is enough. Parents are being held in the crossfire."

Jordan has two daughters — one in seventh grade and one in twelfth grade. The two are heavily involved with extracurricular activities, be it sports, student council or the environment club.

She says the ongoing job strife is affecting her oldest daughter, who had been athlete of the year, the most.

"She's in her last year, and now there's no sports for her," Jordan said. "She can't put it on her post-secondary application."

That said, Jordan adds she is "still siding with the teachers on this one."

"I just want to see this whole thing settled."

A question of semantics

After the strike was announced on Wednesday, confusion reigned around whether teachers could legally walk off the job or not. The government maintained the job action was indeed a strike, while teachers referred to it as a "political protest."

"I know this has been a difficult time for parents, students and teachers," Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten said in statement on Friday morning. "I know there has been confusion and that there still is. But the OLRB's decision clears up some of that confusion and misinformation."

Hamilton mother Val Gravelle called the entire thing a "silly battle over semantics" that disrupted thousands of families.

"I feel like this is a big political game — and the kids are definitely stuck in the middle," she said.

Gravelle gets frustrated each time she hears someone say this issue is "about the kids."

"I don't think anyone is talking about what this is really about."

Looking ahead

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation had said it would stage a strike similar to the one planned by elementary school teachers on Friday. However, the OLRB's decision has seemingly scuttled that plan.

CBC reporter Mike Crawley reported that secondary teachers' union officials have confirmed they they will not proceed with their planned walkout next Wednesday.

But Potter is certain more job action will be coming in Hamilton schools.

"I don't think they're going to sit quietly," he said.

"I certainly hope it doesn't cost me any more money or keep my kids out of school where they need to be."

Here's what some parents were saying about the strike on Twitter: