Hamilton

Hamilton teachers on strike tell Doug Ford: 'Use your common sense'

Along Wentworth Street North, King Street East and Wilson Street drivers in cars, vans and transport trucks honked their horns in noisy support of Hamilton's striking teachers. Teachers at 35 Catholic schools were on strike Tuesday as part of province-wide protests.

Teachers protest work conditions and e-learning

Teachers, Tuesday, walked around Cathedral High School, one of the 35 schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board on strike as part of the province-wide protests. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Tracy Trofimencoff is at school while her two boys are at home.

She teaches English at Cathedral High School, one of the 35 schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board on strike Tuesday in the province-wide Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) protest amid stalled negotiations with the Ford government.

"My boys are 11 and eight-years-old, they go to elementary school and they're upset to be home today, they love to go to school, so it's hard," she says.

"It's important their future comes first."

She and dozens of teachers, dressed in snug coats, toques and gloves, quietly shuffled on the sidewalk around Cathedral in small groups with baby blue signs and flags with messages like "class size matters."

Along Wentworth Street North, King Street East and Wilson Street drivers in cars, vans and transport trucks honked their horns in noisy support of Hamilton's striking teachers.

Staff responded with whistles, waves, whoops and hollers.

A car honks as it drives by teachers stationed at Cathedral High School, who are joining Ontario-wide protests to protect teachers' working conditions. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
Staff at Cathedral High School blow whistles and wave flags as cars honk in support of province-wide strikes amid stalled negotiations between the province and unions. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Joe Cappadocia, an English teacher at the school for 22 years, says the main issues revolve around growing class sizes and more e-learning, which teachers say will cause students grief.

"Our teachers' learning conditions are your students' learning conditions, in that if you have a student in a class with 30, 35, 40 students, they're not going to get the service they deserve," he says. 

He and other teachers say the provincial government hasn't been bargaining, with teachers claiming the talks with the OECTA broke down early last week.

"Please come to the table, we want to work with you, we want to reach a deal, we want to get back in our classrooms because we love what we do,' Trofimencoff says.

"Doug Ford, please come back to the table. Use your common sense."

Province says compensation is the main issue 

Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce say compensation is the primary sticking point. 

Last November, the PCs passed a bill that caps public sector yearly wage increases at one per cent for the next three years. Multiple unions have launched legal challenges to the legislation. 

Ford said last week he has no intention of reconsidering the wage increase limit. 

Lecce said the strikes have "imposed hardship on parents in this province."

"We owe it to the students of this province to not withdraw services from them and ensure there is a continuum of learning," he told reporters Monday afternoon. 

"I think kids are clearly paying the price because of the continuous, union-led escalation."

Teachers striking at Cathedral High School say the main issues at the bargaining table are not increasing class sizes and not expanding e-learning. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

But Mark Dineen, who teaches English, philosophy and sociology at Cathedral, also points to previous OSAP cuts, which he says have hurt local students.

"In the heart of downtown Hamilton, we're in one of the code red areas and we have kids as smart as any kids anywhere but with the cuts to OSAP, some of them are going to have a hard time going to university or college," he says.

"Grade 12 students applying right now aren't sure they'll be able to afford to go."

A parent and her child hand cookies to teachers on the strike line at Cathedral High School. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
Mario Fidanza retired from Cathedral High School in Hamilton four years ago, but came out today to pour coffee for his former colleagues who were part of the province-wide Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association strike Tuesday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

One parent and child greeted Cathedral teachers with cookies, thanking them for their efforts.

Mario Fidanza retired from the school four years ago after teaching math for 36 years, but also showed up to pour hot coffee for his former colleagues, some of whom were his former students.

"There are people in the public who don't support them, but where do you drop your kids off? They're lost without teachers," he told CBC News.

And he also has a message for the province.

"Spend a couple days in the schools, in the shoes of a teacher, and then you might have a different opinion," Findanza says.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario also plan to hold a one-day strike on Thursday, which will affect teachers in Niagara public schools.

About the Author

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News

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