Students across Ontario were out of class Friday as 200,000 teachers and education workers took part in a coordinated one-day strike.
The walkout involved all four major teachers’ unions in the province.
“It’s unheard of,” says Sheena Cassidy, president of Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), Algonquin and Lakeshore. “It’s never happened. All four teachers’ unions in a legal strike position and out on strike on the same day.
Demonstrators shut down 5,000 schools and Ontario’s education system.
“I think having all the education affiliates out today is a statement to the gravity of the situation — and just how important this fight is,” says Andrea Loken, president of Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) for Limestone District 27.
This is the first time all four unions have walked out since 1997.
Teachers and educators from Kingston joined thousands of their colleagues in the one-day walkout.
Roughly 30,000 people were expected to demonstrate at Queen’s Park in Toronto. In Peel Region, organizers say 20,000 education workers formed a 30-kilometre long picket line.
“I think it is amazing,” says Cassidy. “I think they were trying to set a world record in Peel.”
Global News has learned the unions representing elementary and high school teachers plan to escalate their strike action next week.
“We still have many things we can withdraw in our limited withdrawal of services, which is part of our strike,” says Loken.
Among the issues the two sides continue to disagree on are class sizes, e-learning and compensation.
In the elementary school system, teachers are fighting to save full-day kindergarten and keeping both a teacher and an ECE teacher in the classroom.
“And that is vitally important of the success of our JK and SK students, to move on into grade one. And be ready for the learning that they are going to need,” says Jane Roberts, president of Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Limestone Local.
“And if interventions aren’t made at that early age, then it makes it harder for those children as they move up through the grades.”
The unions have been without a contract since August of 2019.