One-day strike protest.
These local teachers or educational assistants were among about 30 on the picket line in front of Queen Elizabeth Public School today. The protest was part of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario’s rotating one-day strikes in Ontario. From left, are Gwenn Davis, Lucie Sauve, Katie St. Pierre, ETFO local president Allison Ryan, ETFO local first vice-president Kelly Melanson, and Kaia Paddock. There were also Renfrew picket lines at Renfrew Collegiate Intermediate School and Central Public School.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
The Elementary Teachers Federation’s one-day rotating strikes touched down in Renfrew County today, but this won’t be the last time ETFO or Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation members speak out against Bill 115.
ETFO local president Allison Ryan and Ontario president Sam Hammond were among officials who made the rounds to support their members and make themselves visible to the general public and the media.
Ryan’s four-stop day began at Walter Zadow Pubilc School in Arnprior, where striking teachers were greeted by many honks and thumbs-up from passing drivers. The tour continued at Queen Elizabeth and Central public schools in Renfrew, while other officials visited Renfrew Collegiate Intermediate School and Cobden Public School where teachers were also picketing.
As a result of the one-day strike, the Renfrew County District School Board closed all of its elementary schools.
“We’re happy to be standing up for our rights. We don’t want to be here (picketing), but we don’t want to see a collective agreement imposed upon us,” said Ryan, referring to the bill that the Ontario legislature passed in September.
“What Bill 115 did was take away our democratic right to negotiate collective agreements freely with our employer,” she added.
“Unfortunately, there’s a misconception in the public that this is about money. This isn’t about money. This is about our rights, and the fact Bill 115 puts our government above the law and takes our rights away.”
Ryan, who has been a teacher for 12 years, says, “Our biggest concern is that collective bargaining with our employer hasn’t been allowed to happen. Bill 115 came out and said you’re going to negotiate under these parameters, and these are the only parameters that you have. And those things do include our wages, our sick leave, our benefits, but it’s about more than that. It’s about the loss of our ability to negotiate.”
Queen Elizabeth Public School teachers echoed those sentiments.
Kaia Paddock, whose mother Lila was the ETFO local president for more than a decade, said she was on the picket line “to tell the government that I’m not happy they’re taking away my rights to collective bargaining, and that we put students first.
“I put my (own two) children first and my students by teaching them to fight, and not to be bullied, by the government.”
Queen Elizabeth Public School teachers carried placards with the stopbill115.ca website below the words: “If you work in Ontario, this is your fight.”
Other placards read: “Negotiate, don’t legislate,” or “Respect collective bargaining rights.”
Striking teacher Jenifer Wroe said, “We’re out here so the bill can be repealed. It’s not about all the stuff we’re hearing.”
Colleague Anne Lefebvre said: “The fight is about democracy, and nothing else.”
“I hope the public hears,” said Ryan, “that we’re doing this for our members, and for all unions, because the government has started with teachers, and who knows where they’re going to go next.”