Ontario’s four largest education unions are planning to strike on Friday, Feb. 21, resulting in a complete shutdown of the province’s public education system, Global News has learned.
The news comes as the leadership of the 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-ontariens (AEFO) attended an event on Wednesday in Toronto at which Education Minister Stephen Lecce was speaking.
Outside the speaking event at the Royal York Hotel, hundreds of elementary teachers picketed along sidewalks with protest signs.
Roughly 200,000 teachers are represented by the four unions and more than 5,000 public schools across the province will be closed leaving over 2 million students out of class on Feb. 21.
“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,” AEFO president Rémi Sabourin said in a statement.
“Educators in every school board will not stay silent as the Ford government proceeds to decimate our publicly funded education system,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.
During Wednesday’s speech, Lecce responded to the on-going teacher strike action.
“No deal is perfect, but I would rather a deal that keeps kids in class and that allows incremental progress for all the parties,” Lecce said.
Provincewide walk-outs have been held by, or are scheduled to be held by, all four unions, which are engaged in job action. The most recent Ontario-wide strike was by ETFO members on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, its teachers continued rotating strikes at numerous school boards, including the Toronto District School Board.
READ MORE: Where are Ontario teachers striking next?
AEFO is slated to have its first provincewide strike on Thursday. However, the union representing the French system said it has agreed to return to the bargaining table on Wednesday, making it the only teachers’ union currently in talks with the government.
Hammond has said ETFO was close to reaching a deal with the government in its bargaining sessions but that the province’s negotiators suddenly tabled new proposals at the 11th hour that the union couldn’t accept.
The OSSTF has been holding a series of rotating one-day strikes since early December, while OECTA’s 45,000 members walked off the job for the first time in more than 20 years on Jan. 21.
On Jan. 15, the government offered compensation between $25 and $60 per day to parents whose children are affected by the teachers’ strikes. Some parents reported being overpaid by the government, which blamed a miscount in its computer system.
— With files from the Canadian Press