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Ontario teachers set to stage a joint walkout for Feb. 21

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TORONTO—Schools across Ontario will be closed Feb. 21 as elementary, secondary, Catholic and French teachers banded together yesterday to announce a joint strike in a bid to ramp up pressure on Premier Doug Ford's government with contract negotiations at a near standstill.

The one-day job action will leave more than two million students out of class.

“What you're seeing here is a show of unity between all of us," said Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. "The different things on the table hardly matter in the face of a government that wants to slash fundamental supports for all of our students, and that's why we're prepared to stand up together.”

The news was announced just before Education Minister Stephen Lecce took the stage at a downtown Toronto hotel for a planned talk about preparing students for the jobs of the future.

He addressed the escalating job action at the start of his moderated chat, calling it an “irresponsible choice.”

“It's time to get a deal," he said to the audience that included all four union leaders. "The students of this province deserve to be in class.”

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond—who shouted “not true” while Lecce was speaking—said he was proud to stand with his colleagues from the other unions.

“I say to people who are watching this: (it's the) first time in history all four teacher affiliates are saying the same thing and fighting the same fight on behalf of students and our members in this province.”

Outside the event, hundreds of protesting teachers filled the sidewalk in front of the hotel, stretching nearly the entire block. They held signs criticizing the government's plan to increase class sizes and calling for Lecce to be fired.

Teachers across the province, who have been without a contract since August, have been holding rotating strikes and other job actions in an attempt to force the Progressive Conservative government to reach a deal.

Nearly 200,000 teachers represented by the four unions—OSSTF, ETFO, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens—will take part in the newly announced one-day strike.

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