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Teachers at 117 English public schools in Ottawa planned to gather outside the schools before the morning bell and walk into buildings together in a “solidarity march,” the first of several job actions expected.

An additional 30 schools will hold information pickets.

After three months of stalled negotiations between the Ontario government and its teachers’ unions, both the The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) are expected to begin the first phase of their strike actions in hopes of forcing the Province back to the bargaining table.

In Ottawa, more than 9,000 education workers in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) will start their partial withdrawal of services as soon as classes start on Tuesday.

During the morning action, primary teachers are expected to hand out pamphlets to parents detailing the reasons for their work-to-rule campaign.

Teachers ‘extremely frustrated’

“Teachers are extremely frustrated because they find themselves unable to meet the needs of students in their classrooms,” said David Wildman, a spokesperson with the Ottawa branch of the ETFO.

Wildman said proposed government cuts to education assistants and larger class sizes are putting additional pressure on teachers who are already stressed by the growing number of special needs children and newcomers who don’t speak English in their classrooms.

“They fear — as we seem to have a government intent on cutting each year for the next four years — the job which is already stressful and challenging will become impossible,” said Wildman.

Phase one of the work-to-rule campaign includes a list of about 20 activities — mostly administrative tasks — but there will be some impact on students. Teachers will not prepare students for EQAO exams and will not participate in the province’s fundamentals of math strategy. Report cards will be graded, but comments won’t be provided.

Simone Rivers says she is supportive of the work-to-rule campaign Ottawa public school teachers are undertaking. (Jean Delisle/ CBC)

Parents supportive

On the eve of strike action, all the parents CBC Ottawa spoke to are supportive of the work-to-rule campaign.

Simone Rivers, who has a son in grade four at Elgin Street Public School, says she appreciates that the union is trying to limit the impact on students for now.

“It’s important for people to be able to voice their discontent,” Rivers said. But she says she would have concerns if her son’s teachers escalate their job action.

“If they have a full-on strike it will always be a challenge for parents who have jobs to go to, but I understand that’s part of living in this kind of society. We want people to have good solid jobs.”

OSSTF also participating

About 30 schools and administrative buildings will also be affected by strike action launched by the local branch of the OSSTF. Along with high school teachers and substitutes, OSSTF also represents custodial and maintenance staff, educational assistants, early childhood educators, adult education workers and professional support staff.

Both ETFO and OSSTF say this first phase of strike action will not affect classroom learning, extracurricular programs or extended day programs for now. But the unions say they have the right to escalate their job action on short notice.

The public school board says students and parents should be aware the job action could lead to traffic delays around its buildings.

In a news release, the OCDSB said that “students, parents and employees have the right to cross a picket line without harassment or intimidation” and warned the public to “keep personal biases and emotions in check” to avoid verbal or physical confrontation.

David Wildman, president of the Ottawa Carleton Elementary Occasional Teachers’ Association, says teachers are frustrated with a general lack of funding, especially when it comes to helping students with special needs.  0:57

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