BURLINGTON, Ontario — Hundreds of teachers and community supporters picketed outside the Central Public Elementary School here Jan. 23, part of province-wide, weekly rotating strikes against the Ontario government’s attempts to cut school funding.
Tens of thousands of Ontario teachers, members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and the French schools Association des enseignantes et enseignants franco-ontariens, have joined in the one-day strikes and work-to-rule actions since December 2019. This is the first time in two decades that all four unions are on strike together.
“Having the Catholic and public school teachers on picket lines together for the first time in many years makes us much stronger,” David Vanturennout, a Grade 6 teacher at Central Public, told the Militant. “We need to be united.”
The teachers are fighting against the government’s proposal to limit pay raises to 1% a year for the next three years, a cap they also want to impose on nurses and other government workers. The government says that in order to save funds they are relaxing limits on class sizes at all levels, moves the unions say will mean elimination of thousands of teachers’ jobs. Funding for special needs students will also be cut.
Teachers here offered coffee to everyone who joined the pickets and cheered as one group showed up carrying handmade signs saying, “Grandparents for public education.”