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Karla Menke Boizo • Special

Karla Menke Boizo • Special

MARCHING IN PROTEST: Teachers from the Hamilton-Wentworth Local of the ETFO recently staged a one-day strike, with about 100 of them protesting at MPP Ted McMeekin’s office in December. They are set to host another protest on Friday, Jan. 11 but the Ontario Labour Relations Board deemed the action an "unlawful strike."

Elementary teachers to stage protest Friday

By Kristin Rushowy • Toronto Star

Tens of thousands of elementary teachers and education workers are planning to walk off the job on Friday, shutting down public schools around the province.

The move comes as provincial leaders with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario met to determine how to respond to the Liberal government imposing contracts on them at the start of the year under its controversial Bill 115.

The move, which ETFO is calling a “one-day political protest” is “aimed at the government and education minister for invoking Bill 115.”

“The minister made a deliberate and provocative choice to wipe out the democratic rights of tens of thousands of educators rather than work toward a respectful solution,” said president Sam Hammond in a written statement.

“She could have taken our olive branch and waited for a new leader to try and find solutions, but she chose not to.”

Hammond noted that more than 90 per cent of union members who voted back in December supported such job action.

“This protest is aimed squarely at the government and education minister, not those school boards who pursued legal collective bargaining with our locals. It is shameful that the minister tied their hands with the limiting parameters of Bill 115. The government can prorogue the legislature but it can’t prorogue democracy,” Hammond added.

Reports of the action prompted Ontario PC education critic Lisa MacLeod to post on her Twitter account: “If ETFO walks off the job Friday, (education minister) Laurel Broten must respond to this illegal job action with the fullest extent of the law.”

“The government has the authority to fine those participating in wildcat strikes.”

Broten has previously said that if teachers walk out during school hours, when they have a contract in place, that’s an illegal strike.

Union leaders have said in the past that a one-day “political protest” is legal, even if it is held on a school day.

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