Ontario teacher strikes: 5 frequently asked questions

What you need to know about the elementary public school teacher strikes happening across the province.

English, elementary public school teachers across the province are holding one-day strikes between now and the end of the school year on Dec. 21. In Ottawa, a one-day walkout is being held on Dec. 12.

Many parents and taxpayers are looking for more information about the job-action and what is at issue.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

1. What are the chances that the one-day strike may last longer or develop into a full-fledged walk-out? 

The strike should not be more than one day. Ontario Minister of Education Laurel Broten has already warned teachers the government has drawn up legal documents to stop any strikes that stretch beyond a single school day.

2. Could this start again after the holiday break?

By Dec. 31 the teacher's unions are supposed to reach deals with their local boards. The education minister will likely stop any strike action beyond the Dec. 31 bargaining deadline. The government has the power to do this under Bill 115. But Broten can't force teachers to take part in extra-curricular activities, including sports and clubs, because they are considered volunteer work.

3. Why is it just the English public school teachers in the dispute with the government?

Catholic and Francophone teachers' unions (about 55,000 of the total 125,000 Ontario teachers) reached an agreement in the summer. English public elementary and secondary school teachers walked away from negotiations with the province.

The provincial government expects the English public school teachers to reach agreements with the same terms and conditions as the Francophone and Catholic teachers.

4. What are the outstanding issues?

Teachers' unions say their biggest issue is that Bill 115 takes away their right to collective bargaining with the government.

The bill also imposed a wage freeze in the first year of the contract for teachers with 10 or more years experience, followed by a 1.5 per cent rollback in the second year of the contract. Teachers with less than 10 years experience would not move up the salary grid, according to the province's proposal. It also halted the accumulation of unused sick days for teachers with fewer than ten years experience, though teachers with banked sick days who have 10 years experience or more would get paid out for those days with an immediate gratuity.

The Elementary Teachers Federation said the changes attack decades of collective bargaining: it took thousands of hours of negotiations to get to those terms in the collective agreement.

5. Is there any chance that Bill 1-15 will be overturned?

The new legislation is currently being challenged in the courts.