“Phase Six starts on Wednesday, February 26,” said Carolle Rose, union shop steward for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) at Rockland Public School, during the afternoon picket session, last Friday, in Rockland, at the corner of Laurier Street and Laporte Street. “We have no clue yet what it is, but we were told we would get an email on Monday, what Phase Six is.”
Several dozen members of all the unions representing teachers and teaching support workers at elementary and secondary schools, in both the English and French public and Catholic school districts, took their turns on picket duty at various sites in Prescott-Russell, and all throughout the province.
The union representing English Catholic school district teachers and support staff has now suspended its plans to continue with its rotating walkouts, as of last Friday. Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), announced in a press release that a mediator, appointed by the Ontario Labour Ministry, has called for representatives of the OECTA and the provincial government to return to the bargaining table as of Monday, February 24.
Meanwhile Rose, who was one of the local picket team captains for the one-day province-wide strike, noted that she and other local teachers and teaching support workers have received strong signs of support from parents and the general public, for their protest against provincial education service cuts.
“People honk their horns as they go by,” Rose said. “I’ve had one parent send me a (text) message ‘We support you. What can we do?’ We know that we have the parents on our side. They know we are doing this for their kids, not just for ourselves.”
Rose reaffirmed that the main focus of the unions is against provincial government policies, which they claim will weaken Ontario’s education system through increasing class sizes while reducing the number of teacher positions available, and also cutting back on various teaching support positions and programs.
“We want the government to get back to the (negotiations) table,” said Rose, “so we can get back to our kids.”