All Ontario teachers to strike on February 21

High school teachers at London Central Secondary School walk the picket line during their one-day strike, December 4, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

For the first time since 1997, all four major Ontario education unions will go on strike on the same day.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) announced Wednesday that they will all hit the picket lines for one day on Friday, February 21.

According to the unions, it’s the first time they have all conducted this kind of job action on the same day since they protested the cuts to education by the government of then-Premier Mike Harris.

“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 released Wednesday. “Our unions and members helped build Ontario’s world-class education system. By not seriously addressing the issues critical to students and student learning, the Ford government has made a sham of contract talks over the last seven months.”

The February 21 strike will keep an estimated two million students out of class for the day. Hammond had previously said he hopes that continued job actions by teachers unions will spur Education Minister Stephen Lecce and the Ford government to return to the bargaining table.

The government and the unions are still far apart and have their own positions about what the barriers to an agreement are. For his part, Education Minister Stephen Lecce insists the unions are holding out for a wage increase above the 1 per cent annual cap for public sector workers. But the teachers say it’s not about salaries, it’s about class sizes, investments in special education, mandatory e-learning, and addressing violence in the classroom.

“It is now evident that the Ford government’s agenda is entirely ideological and not at all concerned with providing quality education,” said OSSTF President Harvey Bischof. “They are pulling resources out of the public education system and, with schemes like mandatory e-learning, laying the groundwork for private interests to profit from our students’ education. We are heartened that so many parents are standing with us against the dismantling of Ontario’s public education system.”