London area elementary teachers on strike for two days

Elementary school teachers strike outside of East Carling Public School in London, February 4, 2020. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Public elementary students in the London region are in the middle of a four day weekend, as their teachers spend the first two days of the week on the picket line.

Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) at nine school boards throughout the province, including the Thames Valley District school board, are participating in one-day strikes Monday. That will be followed by a province-wide walkout by all 83,000 public elementary educators on Tuesday.

As a result, all elementary schools within the Thames Valley board will be closed both Monday and Tuesday.

“Thames Valley has no other option but to close all elementary schools to students as there would not be sufficient supervision to ensure their safety,” the board said in a statement. “Parents/guardians should begin making alternate arrangements for their children.”

The schools will reopen on Wednesday. Area high schools are not affected.

This is the second week in a row that rotating and province-wide strikes will cost students two school days in the same week.

The union ramped up its job action last week amid stalled contract negotiations with the Ford government. Talks broke down between the two sides on January 31, just three days after a mediator asked the union and province to return to the bargaining table.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said last week that the government has put forward “reasonable proposals” that included a commitment to maintaining full-day kindergarten, something that has been a priority for the union.

“It is deeply disappointing parents are still seeing repeated escalation at the expense of our students to advance higher compensation, including more generous benefit plans,” Lecce said in a previous statement.

However, ETFO President Sam Hammond has strongly refuted Lecce’s claims.

“Unlike the Minister of Education, I was at the bargaining table… so I know what was discussed,” said Hammond. “Despite what Minister Lecce is claiming salary was not addressed during those negotiations, and government negotiators did not sign a letter of commitment to maintain the Kindergarten model.”

The union has also planned rotating one-day strikes at several other school boards across Ontario for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.