The union representing public elementary school teachers in Ontario has given notice that its members will begin rotating one-day strikes Monday unless a deal is reached with the province by the end of this week.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) says the following public school boards will be affected on Monday:
- Toronto District School Board.
- Toronto Catholic District School Board (affecting Designated Early Childhood Educators).
- York Region District School Board.
- Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
The union is required by law to give boards five days' advance notice before strike action begins.
ETFO did not announce which boards would be affected, or when, if the rolling strikes were to continue.
The union said the strike will go ahead unless government representatives "get serious" about reaching a deal by Friday.
Province offers parents up to $60 per day
Shortly after the strike notice was given, the Ministry of Education announced the province would be offering up to $60 a day per child to parents whose children would be affected by the closures.
Parents are eligible if their children are 12 years old or younger and are enrolled in a publicly funded school or a school-based child care centre that will close due to the strike. Also eligible are parents with children up to the age of 21 with special needs who are enrolled in a publicly funded school.
The details of the compensation are as follows:
- $60 per day for children up to 6 years old who are not yet enrolled in school but attend a school-based child care centre that is required to close on account of a strike.
- $40 per day for students in junior or senior kindergarten.
- $25 per day for students in Grades 1 to 7.
- $40 total per day for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 12 (or aged 21 and under) with special needs.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce told reporters Wednesday morning the offer of compensation was an effort by the province to be "proactive."
"It is our hope that it will provide some relief to families," Lecce said.
The cost of this program works out to $48 million a day if all Ontario teachers' unions walked out at once, Lecce said. According to the ministry, the amount paid in teacher salaries across the province works out to about $60 million a day.
Province is trying to 'bribe parents': ETFO
The offer of money sparked a strong reaction from the union.
"The minister of education in this province blatantly — in a very transparent way — is trying to bribe parents to get their support in this ongoing battle," Sam Hammond, ETFO president, told reporters on Wednesday.
Hammond suggested the province should instead put the money into the system for "today, tomorrow and into the future, rather than trying to bribe parents."
4 teachers' unions in talks with province
This is just the latest development in the ongoing dispute between the four major teachers' unions and the Progressive Conservative government, who have been bargaining new collective agreements since the beginning of September.
The ETFO has said key issues are more supports for students with special needs, addressing violence in schools and preserving full-day kindergarten.
Elementary teachers are also seeking higher wage increases than the government has offered.
ETFO appears to be following the tack of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, which is today holding its fifth rotating strike at schools in 16 boards.
The OSSTF, which represents 60,000 teachers and education workers, began one-day walkouts on Dec. 4 with a job action that closed schools across the province.
It has followed up with weekly rotating strikes that have closed all secondary schools and some elementary schools at the affected boards. In addition to representing high school teachers, the OSSTF represents education workers at some elementary schools.
Teachers were angered when the government announced that average high school class sizes would increase and four e-learning courses would be mandatory for graduation. The government has since scaled back those proposals, but OSSTF president Harvey Bischof has said it's not enough.
Lecce has repeatedly said the key sticking point is compensation, with the union demanding a roughly two per cent wage increase and the government offering one per cent.