Elementary teachers in Waterloo Region hit the picket lines
Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012 12:17PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2012 5:48PM EST
More than 100 elementary schools in Waterloo Region were shut down for the day Tuesday as public elementary teachers brought rotating one-day strikes to town.
Teachers set up pickets at 28 locations across the region, mostly at major intersections and MPPs’ offices.
“There is not a person out here today on the picket line that wouldn’t rather be in school, in front of their students,” said Greg Weiler, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario’s Waterloo Region branch.
“We all understand the impact [on parents].”
Some parents even joined in the demonstration, expressing support for the teachers' fight.
"I think that strong unions are important, and I also believe that teachers are the most important professionals in our society," said parent Dahvi Neelis.
But not all parents are so supportive. Mandy Clugston even started her own protest, in full view of teachers at several of their demonstrations.
Clugston said she believes many parents feel students are being unfairly disadvantaged by the job action.
"Our children are important, and they should not be used for either side to get what they want," she said.
Although she received plenty of honks and waves of support for her protest, Clugston said she'd also been faced wwith intimidation tactics from some teachers.
"We've had teachers deside that they don't want people to see our signs, so they've been surrounding us and following us from corner to corner," she told CTV.
While many students and families spent the day at malls, parks and skating rinks, some students also took to the streets. One group protested in front of Hespeler Public School in Cambridge, where students said they support their teachers and want to see Bill 115 withdrawn.
"The bill says it's putting us first, but it really isn't. It's hurting teachers and hurting us," said Zoe Hoyte, a Grade 7 student who organized the protest.
Teachers ended their day with a rally at Bingemas, where they were addressed by Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife.
One school board trustee waded into the fray as well. Kitchener trustee Mike Ramsay told CTV he’d like to see parents reimbursed for the missed day, as happened during a strike in 1997.
“It’s clear the honeymoon is over between the government and the teachers’ unions, but working families are being punished and I’m certainly hoping the premier intends to reimburse those families,” he said.
The local strike was part of the so-called ‘Super Tuesday’, in which eight Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario branches and tens of thousands of teachers across the province are striking, including the Grand Erie District School Board in the Brantford area.
Education minister Laurel Broten said the province has no issue with one-day strikes, but might take a tougher position if teachers’ job action ramps up.
“In our view, one day and one day only of strike action on 72 hours’ notice is the right balance,” she said.
“I know it’s a challenging and inconvenient day, but I believe parents expect us to find that right balance.”
The province has said new contracts will be imposed on teachers if agreements aren't reached by Dec. 31.
"That goes to show how important it is that we take this stance against that legislation," said Jason Rowbottom, a teacher at Keatsway Public School.
"If you want to boil it down to that simplest part, it's people having that right and freedom to negotiate things."
Teachers in Waterloo Region earned $50 in strike pay for the day. On a typical day in the classroom, teacher pay ranges from $220 per day for new teachers to $470 per day for veteran educators at the high end of the pay scale.