By Colin Burrowes
Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) took to the streets in strike action held on Friday, Jan. 24, which closed elementary schools in the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB).
Heather Weber, music teacher at Huron Heights Public School and vice-president of the Bluewater Occasional Teachers Local organized the walkouts in Kincardine.
Teachers picketed in two shifts each with about 50 teachers. They picketed in downtown Kincardine and at Kincardine District Senior School. The teachers at the downtown location were from Kincardine Township-Tiverton Public School and Elgin Market School, plus occasional teachers.
“Feedback has been positive,” said Weber. “Ultimately we are here for the student’s learning conditions. We want an education system that supports the needs of all students in a safe and inclusive learning environment. There is a lot of support for stopping the cuts by the Ford government.”
Weber said they would love to be in the classroom teaching rather than on the picket line but they want to defend Ontario’s world-class educational system.
“We thank the community for their support,” she said. “We need your help to stop these cuts to education.”
The ETFO will escalate its rotating strikes across the province starting Monday, Feb. 3 if central agreements are not reached by the end of January.
“There is nothing to be gained by Minister Lecce avoiding meaningful and fair contract talks other than further damaging the reputation of the Ford government,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Educators and parents are not going to accept the government’s deep cuts to public education that only serve to harm the quality of education for generations to come.”
“From ETFO’s perspective, fair contract talks must include: appropriate funding for Special Education; a strategy to address classroom violence; maintaining our internationally recognized Kindergarten program; fair hiring practices; class sizes that meet the needs of elementary students; and compensation that keeps up with inflation.”
If agreements are not reached by Jan. 31, ETFO will escalate its rotating strikes. Elementary schools in the BWDSB will be closed on Monday, Feb 3 as part of rolling strikes in select school boards and again on Thursday Feb. 6 as part of one-day strike which will include all 83,000 EFTO members.
Weber encourages people to help by contacting Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson’s office to express their concerns and show encouragement for all teachers at all schools, education workers and support staff.