NORTH DURHAM: Members of four Ontario teachers’ unions will hit the picket lines province wide on the same day for a one-day strike on Friday, February 21st.

The walkout includes members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO).

“This is the first time since the political protest of 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education affiliates will all be out of their classrooms on the same day,” read a press release from OSSTF.

ETFO President Sam Hammond stated the union continues to be concerned about possible cuts to education. “Educators in every school board will not stay silent as the Ford government proceeds to decimate our publicly funded education system,” he said, in a press release. “Our unions and members helped build Ontario’s world-class education system. By not seriously addressing the issues critical to students and student learning, the Ford government has made a sham of contract talks over the last seven months.”

OECTA President Liz Stuart had similar concerns. “The Ford government is reducing supports for students with special education needs and mental health issues. It is squeezing students into overcrowded classes and forcing high school students to take e-learning courses. If we allow the government to implement its plan fully, thousands of teaching positions and tens of thousands of course options will be lost,” her statement read.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce made a statement regarding the recently announced labour action.

“Our focus is on keeping students in class, as they deserve better. That is why I am calling on the teachers’ union leaders to accept private mediation today and end this needless escalation,” he said, in a press release. “Parents are losing patience with the disruption in their lives, the inconsistency in their children’s education, and the financial impact of scrambling for child care.”

OSSTF President Harvey Bischof believes the Ontario government has a hidden agenda in these negotiations, and that a majority of parents support the union’s actions. “It is now evident that the Ford government’s agenda is entirely ideological and not at all concerned with providing quality education,” he said, in the press release. “They are pulling resources out of the public education system and, with schemes like mandatory e-learning, laying the groundwork for private interests to profit from our students’ education. We are heartened that so many parents are standing with us against the dismantling of Ontario’s public education system.”