BRACEBRIDGE - Honks of support flooded Wellington Street this week as teachers from Monck Public School walked off the job together with their colleagues from across the region.
Elementary school teachers and their supporters picketed outside Monck Public School on Thursday, Dec. 13, as part of a larger board-wide one-day strike against Bill 115.
Photo by Louis Tam
As the latest in a string of area protests against Bill 115, the one-day strike by elementary school teachers on Thursday, Dec. 13 closed all public elementary schools across the District of Muskoka. Teachers picketed outside nearly every school to show their displeasure over the bill, which takes away their right to collective bargaining.
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) local vice-president Kevin Adams said the reception from local communities has been largely positive.
“I’ve been at the Huntsville schools and the Bracebridge schools, and everybody seems to be doing quite fine,” he said. “I just came from Bracebridge Public School, and a couple of parents had come up and brought in some cookies to show support. Everybody seems to be getting along, which is what we want.”
Teachers picketing at Monck Public School declined to be interviewed, and referred media inquiries to Adams.
“This is about repealing Bill 115… that bill is draconian and undemocratic, we have no right of appeal under that legislation, it’s against the Charter,” he said.
As with high school teachers, elementary teachers have also withheld extracurricular activities from students as part of a work-to-rule protest against the bill.
“I think everybody’s concerned, both teachers, administrators and parents and students alike. I don’t think anybody is really joyed about that. Teachers get into the teaching profession because they love teaching and love kids,” said Adams. “We’ve always volunteered, the public really needs to know these are volunteer activities, and unfortunately right now we’re not doing any volunteer activities.”
In the weeks before the strike took place, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty issued a statement which voiced his disappointment over the teachers’ actions.
“I understand this will be an inconvenience for parents as they make special arrangements, and it is regrettable for students to miss any time learning. However, a legal, one-day strike action does not warrant the government’s intervention,” the statement read. “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, ETFO 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 this issue.”
McGuinty’s statement noted that students and parents have the right to “stability in their schools,” but also recognized the teachers’ right to strike when no collective agreement is in place. However, the premier also emphasized a need to “strike a reasonable balance” between the two sides.
Adams said the extracurricular activities will resume once the labour dispute ends.
“That is part of our work-to-rule, and that is one of the job actions that we’ve taken, it’s unfortunate, but that’s the state of labour relations right now,” he said. “Repeal Bill 115, don’t enact Bill 115 and you’ll find us very easy to deal with.”
The one-day strike comes just two days after high school students in Bracebridge, Huntsville and Gravenhurst walked out of their classes in support of their teachers, and one week after teachers staged a protest in front of Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller’s Bracebridge office.