Ontario public schools to shut down starting Feb. 21 due to teacher strikes
The four largest education unions of Ontario are planning on striking starting Feb. 21—a shutdown that will cause a full shut down of Ontario’s public education system.
According to Global News, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-Ontarians (AEFO) were all in attendance Wednesday at Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s speaking event.
Those four unions represent over 200,000 teachers province-wide across over 5,000 schools. The strike will result in the absence of education for nearly 2,000,000 students starting Feb. 21.
The event was heavily picketed by some of those 200,000 outside the Royal York Hotel.
AEFO president Remi Sabourin told Global that “It is clear to all four Ontario education unions and our members that the Ford government and Education Minister Lecce care nothing about students or educators and everything about taking money out of the publicly funded education system.”
A statement from ETFO president said, “Educators in every school board will not stay silent as the Ford government proceeds to decimate our publicly funded education system.”
Walkouts have already taken place amongst teachers from the four unions in the form of one-day protests. ETFO members recently took an Ontario-wide strike Tuesday, and on Wednesday, rotating strikes continued at school boards throughout the province.
As of now, the union representing French schoolboards are the only ones still at the negotiating table.
ETFO representative Hammond said that the province was close to reaching a deal with the government, but that provincial negotiators tabled a last-minute new proposal which the union declined.
The Ford government offered compensation of up to $60 a day to parents who were affected by the strike and needed child care kickbacks.
I saw an opinion piece posted a few days ago on The Post Millennial titled “Ontario teachers need to realize how great they have it” and it started to really bug me.
I am a secondary teacher in Ontario and am proudly walking the picket line to fight for my students. I am used to seeing all the misinformation posted online when it comes to our recent job action with the province and I have gotten pretty good at brushing it off. I was unable to with this particular opinion piece because of the amount of stereotyping and general misinformation that the author chose to write about. I want to provide some key context for what was said and what is actually happening in our schools.
First, I would like to point out that teaching is not a part-time job. I am at my school from 7:30 a.m. until at least 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon. I often work through my “lunch” break as I am spending time with students, in meetings, marking, or preparing lessons. I worked it out once and between the time that I am actually at school, preparing, marking at home, and supervising extra curricular activities, I work approximately 50 hours a week. I am only paid for the classes I teach.
While I am on the subject of pay, in order to reach the top end of the pay scale, you have to be 10-plus years in, a department head or some other administrative type role, have taken a number of of additional qualification courses at your own cost, and more often than not, have a master’s degree. Those that the author cite as making over $100,000 are principals, vice-principals and superintendents who do not fall into our union. I’m four years in and have yet to make more than $40,000.
This leads me to my next point regarding “vacation”. It’s true there are 11 weeks of the year where we are not in school, but they are not vacation days. We are unemployed during those times. We have our 10-month salary distributed over 12 months. The money that we receive during the summer is for hours we have already worked. Most of us spend our summers taking upgrading courses or seminars to improve our practice. We also spend time preparing for the next year. I spend at least two unpaid weeks in August in my school getting prepared for the year ahead.
When you look at what we are asking for in our negotiation in terms of pay, it is to keep up with the cost of inflation. Inflation is around 2-2.5 percent a year. That is all we are asking for. As one of my students said, “So you’re asking to make the same amount of money that you already do?”
Yes, we want to keep the salary that we have so we can keep up with the rising cost of everything around us.
That cushy pension and benefits you mention, I pay for it. I put about as much into my pension each pay as I do to income tax. So yes, some of us can afford to retire early, but that is because we have paid into it. As for benefits, I pay into those as well. I am not ETFO so I cannot comment on what the author listed there but I will tell you that if you are not full-time, the benefits cost outweigh what you are given. In my four years, I have only had a full benefit package for one semester (5 months).
I also want to mention that the reason I voted in favour of strike action was not about pay. Class size matters. Those that say, “Well I had 35-plus students in class when I was in high school so what does it matter?” were not living during a time of full integration. This means that I have students with a variety of learning needs in my classes that would not have been in a mainstream class 20 years ago. The higher the student to teacher ratio is, the less time I have to support each of my students. Mandatory e-learning won’t work for every student.
How can you expect a 13 year-old with dyslexia to be responsible for a full course online with no direct supervision? You can’t. Yes some students will thrive in that situation but it will hurt more than it will help. There is also the issue of where these students are expected to take these mandatory online course. What if they don’t have access at home? What if they simply cannot learn in that environment, are there exceptions for students who simply can’t do it? These questions have not been answered by the government nearly a year after they announced this proposed change. All we are asking for is more data to ensure that this plan is actually in the best interest of students.
In the final point of the article the author mentioned a pattern of teachers going on strike. That is not true. The last time there was a full withdrawal of services (a walk out/ strike) by any and all of the four unions was in 1997. Since then contracts have been able to be negotiated with only limited withdrawal of service. I work with teachers who are 21 years in and this is the only time it has escalated to this level.
The government and the minister of education have been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning of this process, which got underway last May. They have failed to show up to the table to even talk about meaningful issues that will have lasting impacts on generations of students to come. In three days of negations, the government was present for less than an hour. We have been open and transparent about where we stand from the beginning. Readers can take a look for themselves to learn more about these issues.
We are still dealing with the ramifications of some of the implications from the 1997 strike. What we want is to ensure that what this government wants to implement will not cause lasting damage to one of the top rated education systems.
So next time the author of that article drives by a picket line maybe instead of shouting at us to “quit complaining” and we “have part-time jobs”, engage us in a conversation about what this is actually about and what the conditions are in our classroom that have led us here. There are real issues at play here that the government has yet to address. We are looking out for generations of students.
Ontario is set to have its first ever province-wide teachers strike Friday as about 200,000 teachers and education workers will be on the picket line, which means two million students will be out of school today.
It’s expected that 30,000 union members will strike at Queen’s Park and another 20,000 will be picketing along Highway 10 in Peel Region.
The four main teachers’ unions will strike together after contract negotiations have been as standstill for months. Contract talks have been stalled with the Ford government and the country’s largest education union, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). The union has threatened that even more strike action may come next week in a memo to its 83,000 members that a “Phase 6 strike protocol” although details of what that means exactly have been withheld, according to the Globe and Mail.
“I would say that you can be sure that we have everyone’s best interests in mind and certainly we want nothing more than to have the government meet us at the table to negotiate a deal that is positive and constructive for students, for families and for the future of public education,” said Joy Lachica, president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce disagrees, calling the strike “unhelpful,” and said, “Parents are rightfully frustrated. This has gone on for too long,” Mr. Lecce told reporters at Queen’s Park on Thursday.
“Parents are rightfully frustrated. This has gone on for too long,” Mr. Lecce told reporters at Queen’s Park on Thursday.
The strike is predominantly to do with class-size increases in high school, mandatory online courses for high school students, more funding for special-education supports, a seniority program for supply teachers to gain full time teaching positions and protection of the full day kindergarten program and staffing.
The Elementary Teachers’ Union of Ontario won’t be “releasing any information about phase 6 or what any further job action will look like at this time and as such, there is no comment from [president] Sam Hammond,” according to an email statement sent on Thursday.
The Ontario teachers strike has been going on for a while, and the teachers’ unions continue to escalate the situation.
Ontario’s four largest teachers’ unions will be staging a one-day strike across the province on Feb. 21 if there is not an agreement reached with the provincial government. The four teachers unions involved in the strike are the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens.
Rotating strikes have been going on in my neighbourhood in the past few weeks. I have driven by these demonstrations.
Some people honk their horns or cheer to show support for the teachers. I do not honk my horn or cheer. I roll down the window of the vehicle I am in and make some blunt comments.
“Quit complaining!” I shout at the crowds of teachers. “You have the best part-time jobs in the world!”
Ontario’s teachers should not be striking, because they already have amazing jobs.
Ontario’s teachers receive fantastic health and dental insurance. This health and dental insurance allows teachers to avoid paying certain health care costs.
The ETFO Benefits Plan Guide says Ontario’s public elementary school teachers receive health insurance that includes up to $12,000 for fertility drugs per lifetime, two pairs of custom orthopedic shoes per benefit year, and up to $1,000 for massage therapy if a doctor’s note is provided. Their dental insurance covers 100 percent of dental check ups, x-rays, and fillings, 100 percent of root canals and related services, and 50 percent of child and adult orthodontics.
Vacation time is abundant for Ontario’s teachers. They have eight weeks off for summer vacation, two weeks for winter break, and one week for March break.
This vacation time applies to new employees. Can you name any other jobs that receive 11 weeks of vacation time when employees first start?
One reason why Ontario’s teachers are striking is salary. The Ontario government hopes to provide a one percent pay raise per year for the next three years, but teachers want two percent. Teachers should not be complaining, because they already make a substantive amount of money.
The Toronto District School Board’s salary grid shows that effective August 31, 2019, more experienced teachers can make $73,071 to $100,034 per year.
A poll done by Campaign Research found that the majority of Ontarians are opposed to giving teachers a two percent pay raise.
Ontario’s teachers have a pension. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) said that teachers are eligible to retire with an unreduced pension when their age and qualifying years equal 85 years old or when they turn 65 years old. This means that a teacher who started working at 25 could retire by 55 if they work for 30 years.
Statistics Canada reported that the average age of retirees in Canada in 2019 was 64.3 years old, so teachers can afford to retire earlier than most people.
Their pensions are cushiony. The OTPP said that until a teacher turns 65 years old, his or her pension is calculated by multiplying two percent, the amount of years worked, and the average salary of their best five years. A teacher who worked for 30 years and earned an average of $85,000 in their best five years would earn a pension of $51,000 per year.
There are teachers who claim that they are striking to help students. However, if these teachers are passionate about supporting students, why were they not striking during the summer?
Premier Doug Ford was right when he said that there is a pattern when the teachers go on strike.
“They went on strike under Bob Rae, they went on strike under Mike Harris, they went on strike under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne,” said Ford at a press conference in April 2019. “They strike under every single government that’s in there.”
Ontario’s teachers and students belong in the classroom. Striking is unproductive and selfish–it’s not for the kids.
Downtown Toronto is packed with striking teachers today after elementary teachers went on strike across the province.
The striking teachers have staged a march down Front Street, which is where Ontario’s Ministry of Education is located. Over one thousand teachers gathered outside the ministry—holding advocacy signs and chanting pro-teacher slogans.
Nearly 83,000 teachers are on strike today throughout Ontario, leaving nearly 1 million students out of school. This latest round of strikes follows a cut-off of negations between Doug Ford’s Ontario government and the teacher’s unions.
The OSSTF released a statement last week after a failed round of negotiations, stating that “OSSTF/FEESO members are not the only ones who understand the enormity of the damage that will ensue if this government’s education agenda is allowed to unfold.”
In response to these claims, Ontario’s minister of education Stephen Lecce, said that “after fulfilling their request through the mediator, a Ministry of Labour mediator, they suggested it was insufficient, so I think there’s a moving sort of benchmark of success.”