Ontario Elementary Teachers Strike, Students Protest

Ontario teachers unions aren't the only ones who are criticizing Bill 115, which created a more hostile negotiating environment for unions in the province. Earlier this week hundreds of students walked out of class to protest being unwilling victims in the ongoing labor dispute between the union and the province as legislation known as Bill 115 stirs controversy.

According to CTV News, the students were also expressing their dissatisfaction with cuts to extracurricular activities. Public high school teachers who previously ran the activities such as coaching sports and running clubs stopped participating in any voluntary unpaid work after Bill 115 was approved. In addition, they've declined to perform any administrative duties for which they are not paid.

Public school teachers are protesting Bill 115 provisions that allow the province to shut down strikes, force a contract agreement onto teachers when no compromise can be reached, and institute wage, hiring and benefit freezes.

Students said that the rescinding of extracurricular activities is hurting them.

"Our students have the right to learn before and after school, the right to play basketball, have a prom, eat breakfast at breakfast club and have fun in the gym after school," said student Braxton Wignall.

In addition to a number of protest gatherings which took place over the last two weeks, students have also created an online petition calling for the teachers and the provincial government to get back to the negotiating table. In the words of Kourosh Houshmand, a vice-president of the Ontario Student Trustees' Association, it is unfair that the fight between the union and the province has affected students in such a big way.

Teachers at elementary schools around Ontario are also participating in a strike action, beginning the first of the rotating strikes and launching demands that Bill 115 is rescinded.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the one-day elementary teacher strikes are a "small price to pay" after nine years of labour peace in the province.

"While inconvenient, these one-day legal strike actions do not warrant the intervention of the government and are a small price to pay to protect full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes and 10,000 teaching jobs," McGuinty said in a statement.

For parents who are worried about getting caught up in the elementary school strike actions, the CBCNews Ontario website provides a FAQ explaining what they can expect. Among the tips provided are assurances that the strikes are unlikely to last for more than a day and that they will continue taking place around the province until the end of the semester on December 21st.

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