High school teacher walkout Friday

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MANITOULIN – Although some progress has taken place in the past week, education strikes in Ontario continue with a one-day rotating walkout affecting Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), while the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) moves to a non-striking ‘Phase 6’ of job action.

Office staff at RDSB elementary schools, however, will be off the job this Friday.

According to a press release from ETFO issued this past Monday, February 24, Phase 6 strike protocol is to begin today, Wednesday, February 26.

“Our members will remain in schools and will follow their teaching, student supervision and preparation time schedules, as well as other scheduled duties. They will not fill in for absences that should be covered by occasional teachers and education workers, or upload data related to assessments. In addition, ETFO members will not be using their personal funds to pay for classroom and education-related expenses,” stated ETFO president Sam Hammond.

The essence of this round of striking is to shed light on a problem the union described as a “long-standing concern:” educators paying for classroom materials from their own salaries.

The union also urged the government to resume negotiations before Friday, March 6 because ETFO would advance to Phase 7 of its strike protocol on Monday, March 9.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce continued his firm stance in response to the one-day OSSTF strike this week.

“While OSSTF demands a $1.5 billion increase in wages and benefits, we will advance the case for investment in our kids. I’d rather see us reduce classroom sizes or invest further in improving math performance as opposed to spending over $600 million (sector-wide) on a hike to an already generous benefits plan,” he said.

In a contrast to the two unions representing Island teachers, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) which represents Catholic elementary schoolteachers has halted its rotating strike action. The two sides in the dispute returned to discussions this past Monday, though as of press time it was unclear how much progress was being made in those talks.