By Jennifer Thurbide
A majority of the area’s public school students were prevented from attending classes this week as the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) held a strike day on Dec. 11. Protesters gathered in Dryden outside of 479 Government Road.
The union representing public school teachers at Red Lake Madsen Public School, Ear Falls Public School and Golden Learning Centre says the one-day political protest was voted on by more than 90 per cent of its members across the province in an effort to send a message to the provincial government.
“ETFO teachers, occasional teachers, education support personnel, professional support personnel, and designated early childhood educators are saying they will lead the protest against Bill 115 if the education minister denies them their fundamental rights,” said Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) on Dec. 5.
“This vote affirms once again that it is our members who determine their actions through democratic processes, contrary to Minister Broten’s derogatory comments about union leaders this week,” he added. “It is unfortunate that her government crafted a law that allows no judicial appeal in the provincial courts – a tactic rarely if ever used in democracies. Our members have been left with little recourse but to choose a political protest.”
Keewatin-Patricia Elementary Teachers’ Association (KPETA), the local ETFO chapter, informed the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) that they would be holding the day of protest on Dec. 6, says a representative.
Prior to this Tuesday’s action, KPDSB Director of Education Jack McMaster said any planned strike action would force the closure of the affected education institution and said specifically buses would not be picking up students and that parents were being instructed not to drop off students.
As of Dec. 10, KPETA members were in a legal strike position and leadership indicated it would give families 72 hours notice prior to a full strike.
“Unfortunately, this job action by both the EFTO and Ontario Secondary Teachers Federation of Ontario will have an effect on our schools,” said McMaster last week. “Schools will manage as best they can, and we realize this is a very difficult time for students who have been involved in extra-curricular activities. It is also difficult for our staff who enjoy dedicating many hours a week to these activities for our students.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty expressed his disappointment with the teachers unions in a statement last week stating: “It is worth noting that while students will miss an entire day of class, and teachers will spend one entire day on the picket line, and lawyers will spend weeks preparing their case, EFTO leadership have spent less than an hour in the last 10 months at the negotiating table, which I continue to believe is the best place to resolve the issue.”
McGunity furthered that the elementary teachers union has till Dec. 31 to reach a negotiated settlement with their school boards.