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Teacher protest: Durham teachers to join Toronto, Peel in Tuesday walkout

Student protest at Queens Park

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS Students protest Bill 115, the “Putting Students First Act,” during a rally to end the labour dispute between Ontario government and teachersunions at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

Elementary teachers in Toronto, Peel and Durham Regions — three of the largest boards in the province — will go on a one-day strike next Tuesday to protest Bill 115, with reports of more strikes that same day hitting schools around Sarnia and Windsor.

The GTA strikes alone will close more than 775 public elementary schools for a staggering 328,750 students, in a bid to push the McGuinty government to scrap its unpopular law.

Early reports Friday suggested teachers also will walk out Tuesday in the Lambton-Kent and Greater Essex boards.

Strike announcements were pouring in early Friday, with teachers in Hamilton, Rainy River and James Bay set to walk off the job on Monday.

In Toronto, the local union began notifying its 11,000 members Thursday at 4 p.m. to give them a jump on the official 72-hour warning the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has promised to give parents for each of the one-day strikes it is staging across Ontario in the two weeks before the holidays.

The Toronto, Peel and Durham teachers’ unions are expected to announce the strikes publicly Saturday morning.

All three boards have said they will close elementary schools during the one-day strike and cancel buses and parents must make other arrangements for their children that day.

If the southwestern Ontario boards also hold strikes Tuesday, it would be the largest joint action on one day so far in the union’s two-week blitz of rotating walkouts. To date, no more than three boards have walked out on a single day.

This is a huge inconvenience for parents,” fumed Toronto real estate agent Desmond Brown, who has two children in elementary school. “I can rearrange my day to be able to take care of my kids, but I still have to work — and what about families that don’t have flexibility, especially low-income parents?

“I’m completely fed up with what the teachers’ unions are doing.”

The Peel board already had notified parents that buses would be cancelled during the strike, before- and after-school programs won’t run and Peel’s parenting and family literacy centres will be closed.

School-based child care centres may be open, though that will vary from school to school, said TDSB spokeswoman Shari Schwartz-Maltz. “We are hearing, anecdotally, that some child-cares are notifying parents that they won’t be open that day because their employees are union members who won’t cross picket lines.”

Schools that include Grades 7, 8 and 9 will be closed for all grades for the day.

During a one-day strike Thursday by York Region elementary teachers, the board agreed to supervise students who ended up being dropped off at school, and 125 of its 80,000 elementary students showed up, said Licinio Miguelo.

Teachers are protesting Bill 115, a law that curbs teachers’ bargaining rights, reduces benefits and freezes wages.

ETFO has been staging several board-wide strikes each day starting Dec. 10, and already 10 boards have held walkouts, with three more to take place Friday. The rest of the province’s 31 public English-language boards are expected to hold their one-day strikes next week. ETFO will announce Friday morning which boards will face strikes Monday.

Meanwhile, high school students held a mass protest rally Thursday at Queen’s Park to deliver a message to adults: Grow up and settle your differences.

Student leaders demanded a meeting with Education Minister Laurel Broten and the two main teachers’ union leaders in hopes of ending the turmoil over Bill 115.

With many high school teachers no longer doing volunteer work with extracurriculars over the controversial law, teens who organized the rally on the legislature’s front lawn said they’re tired of being “victims of politics.”

“We ask for the politicians in whom we instill our trust to find a solution,” Kourosh Houshmand, 17, a Grade 12 student at Earl Haig Secondary School, told a news conference after meeting with Broten.

“We want to create awareness so the problem is solved quickly.”

Broten said in a statement that students shouldreach out to their local school board and local union leadership.”

thestar.com – News

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