TORONTO — All four major teachers’ unions in Ontario said Wednesday they will stage a one-day walkout on Feb. 21 in a bid to ramp up pressure on Premier Doug Ford’s government during tense contract negotiations.

The job action will close over 5,000 public elementary and secondary schools across Ontario for one day, leaving over two million students out of class.

Nearly 200,000 teachers represented by the four unions — the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens — will take part in the one-day strike.

“Educators in every school board will not stay silent as the Ford government proceeds to decimate our publicly funded education system,” ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement. “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.”

The news came as hundreds of elementary teachers were protesting outside a downtown Toronto hotel today where Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce was speaking.

During the event, organized by the Canadian Club of Toronto, Lecce said he had just learned of the escalating job action moments before the speech, calling it an “irresponsible choice”.

“It’s time to get a deal,” he said to the union leaders in the audience. “The students of this province deserve to be in class.”

Teachers filled the sidewalk outside the hotel, stretching nearly the entire block. They held signs criticizing the government’s plan to increase class sizes and calling for Lecce to be fired.

Teachers across the province, who have been without a contract since August, have been holding rotating strikes and other job actions in an attempt to force the Progressive Conservative government to reach a deal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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