Ottawa

English public elementary schools close Monday for teachers' strike

Classes are cancelled Monday for all elementary students at Ottawa-Carleton District School Board schools as the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario launches the first wave of one-day strikes.

Classes for Grade 7 and 8 students also cancelled at several Ottawa high schools

On the first day of rotating one-day strikes by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, parents say they're hoping the union and the government can come to an agreement soon.  1:26

Classes are cancelled Monday for all elementary students at Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) schools.

It's the first wave of rotating one-day strikes by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO). Elementary teachers are walking out Jan. 20 in three large Ontario school boards: Toronto, York Region, and the OCDSB.

"We feel that we have no option at this time, based on the fact that this government has not engaged in meaningful negotiations for over four months," said ETFO president Sam Hammond Friday.

Along with the closure of elementary schools in Ottawa, Grade 7 and 8 classes at Bell, Earl of March, Longfields-Davidson Heights, Merivale and Sir Robert Borden High Schools are also cancelled Monday, OCDSB said.

Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce has called the one-day strike "unacceptable."

"The immense uptake of our Support for Parents Initiative speaks volumes to the level of uncertainty union-led strike action causes," Lecce said in an email to CBC.

The government's initiative provides payments to parents with children 12 years old or younger — or up to 21 years old, if they have special needs — to help with childcare.

"I will continue to focus on reaching voluntary agreements with the teachers' unions, so Ontario students stay in class where they belong," said Lecce.

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond said his members feel they have no option but to strike on Monday. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

3rd recent closure

Monday is the third time in recent months OCDSB elementary schools have closed.

Schools closed previously on Jan. 15 and Dec. 4 when elementary school staff — including early childhood educators —  belonging to the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers' Federation, a different union, walked off the job.

One of the main sticking points between ETFO and the province is support in the classroom, said Hammond.

Teachers need more help with special needs students, like those on the autism spectrum, as well as children learning English, he said. 

"The supports and resources for those students are desperately needed in our schools and classrooms across this province, and this government has yet to enter into meaningful discussions around renewing those funds and those supports," he said. 

Teachers also want the province to commit to all-day kindergarten and restore Regulation 274, which gives occasional teachers with more seniority an edge in hiring decisions. 

Ontario's Minister of Education Stephen Lecce calls the strike on Monday by elementary teachers 'unacceptable.' (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

When asked about the province's position Regulation 274, a spokesperson for Lecce said the ministry has a media blackout with the union.

"As such, we will not discuss what may or may not be happening at the bargaining table," they said in an email. 

Wage increase sought

Teachers are also looking for a wage increase in line with inflation or the rising cost of living, Hammond said.

That could be anywhere from 1.8 per cent to two per cent, he said.

The province is offering a wage increase of one per cent, said Hammond. The province also declined to comment on the wage offer, citing the blackout. 

ETFO is slated to continue its rotating strikes Tuesday when teachers in Renfrew County, as well as elsewhere in the province, walk off the job.

Elementary teachers with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are staging a one-day strike today. We speak with the head of the Ottawa-Carleton chapter about what`s planned. 7:33

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Previously, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.