Elementary teachers, some early childhood educators and other school staff are planning to walk off the job on Friday, shutting down public schools around the province.
The Grand Erie District School Board has announced all of its elementary schools will be closed on Friday due to the planned action. The board held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, where it made the decision.
"Student safety is paramount with us," said GEDSB chair Rita Collver. "(Closing schools) is the only option to ensure our students are safe."
The move comes as provincial leaders with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario met to determine how to respond to the Liberal government imposing contracts on them at the start of the year under its controversial Bill 115.
The move, which ETFO is calling a “one-day political protest” is “aimed at the government and education minister for invoking Bill 115.”
“The minister made a deliberate and provocative choice to wipe out the democratic rights of tens of thousands of educators rather than work toward a respectful solution,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a written statement.
“She could have taken our olive branch and waited for a new leader to try and find solutions, but she chose not to.”
Hammond noted that more than 90 per cent of union members who voted in December supported such job action.
“This protest is aimed squarely at the government and education minister, not those school boards who pursued legal collective bargaining with our locals," Hammond said. "It is shameful that the minister tied their hands with the limiting parameters of Bill 115. The government can prorogue the legislature but it can’t prorogue democracy.”
Reports of the action prompted Ontario PC education critic Lisa MacLeod to post on her Twitter account: “If ETFO walks off the job Friday, (education minister) Laurel Broten must respond to this illegal job action with the fullest extent of the law.”
“The government has the authority to fine those participating in wildcat strikes.”
Broten has previously said that if teachers walk out during school hours, when they have a contract in place, that’s an illegal strike. The provincial government is going to court on Thursday in an effort to stop the planned protest.
Union leaders have said in the past that a one-day “political protest” is legal, even if it is held on a school day.
– With files from Brant News