Public elementary teachers protest this Friday

Dec. 10 public elementary teachers' strike. File photo.

Dec. 10 public elementary teachers’ strike. File photo.

HEATHER BOA Bullet News HURON COUNTY – Public elementary teachers across Huron County will not be in the classrooms Friday, instead staging political protests of the controversial Bill 115 across the Avon Maitland District School Board.

About 1,000 contract and occasional unionized teachers in Huron and Perth will join members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) from across the province on Jan. 11 in a one-day protest of the bill that imposed contracts on them effective Dec. 31, 2012.

Although they are no longer in a legal position to withhold services under the Labour Relations Act, the public can expect a repeat of the one-day strike that took place Dec. 10 locally as part of rotating strikes across the province, said Merlin Leis, who is president of the Avon Maitland Elementary Teachers Federation.

“We will not be in school. We will be protesting in various locations in Avon Maitland yet to be determined. It won’t be business as usual on Friday,” he said. “The protest is not against our employer. It is against the government.”

Public elementary schools, including Grades 7 and 8 classes in secondary schools, across the board will be closed to their 10,000 students.

“Because of issues of safety and supervision of students, we can’t have students coming to the schools,” said Steve Howe, who is the board’s communications manager. All staff who are not members of EFTO are expected to report to work.

A letter providing information from the board to parents will be sent home with students today.

“They did have a contract imposed on them so they are not in a legal strike position. However, whatever the consequences may or may not be will be determined by the minister of education,” Howe said.

Leis said the government has not listened to the unions throughout contract renegotiations and passing of Bill 115.

“We’ve had the terms and conditions of our employment imposed on us. That has never happened in the history of education,” he said, noting that there was no opportunity to respectfully negotiate an agreement. “We are very outraged.”

He would welcome the opportunity to open negotiations with a new premier, after the Liberal leadership conference at the end of this month.

“We’re willing to work with anybody who will sit down and negotiate with us. That’s all we want to do,” Leis said.

Ninety-two per cent of more than 46,000 union members voted in December in favour of a one-day political protest if Education Minister Laurel Broten were to impose contracts using Bill 115. Contracts were imposed on boards and local unions Jan. 3.

“The minister made a deliberate and provocative choice to wipe out the democratic rights of tens of thousands of educators rather than work towards a respectful solution,” said Sam Hammond, who is ETFO president, in a press release today. “She could have taken our olive branch and waited for a new leader to try and find solutions, but she chose not to.”

“Our members are standing up to say that democratic values must trump party politics in this province. What happened to educators must not happen to any other Ontarian. The stain of Bill 115, enacted four months ago this Friday, serves as a permanent reminder of that.”

Written by on January 9, 2013 in Communities, Public School - No comments

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