TORONTO, Feb. 21 -- Major teachers unions in the Canadian province of Ontario went on strike on Friday, leaving more than 2 million school children out of class.
The strike saw 30,000 union members at Queen's Park. Another 20,000 were picketing along a 30-km stretch on Highway 10 in Peel Region, local media reported.
"We want this government to understand that over 200,000 teachers and education workers across this province are standing up and in one voice saying you must pull back these cuts," Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said Friday.
Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the students should be in school instead.
"Parents are losing patience with the union-caused disruption in their lives, the inconsistency in their children's education and the financial impact of scrambling for alternate care," Lecce said.
The minister said the key sticking point in negotiations with high school teachers is compensation.
The unions are asking for wage increases of two percent to keep up with inflation, but the government passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one percent for three years.
The provincial government announced in March 2019 that it would increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate, while the unions are calling on the government to back down on cuts to education.
The government has partly backed off, offering to instead increase average high school class sizes to 25 and require two online learning courses.
Ontario teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2019, and tensions have risen in recent months between them and the government.
With a province-wide class size average of 22.5, the move to increase class size has already led to schools offering hundreds fewer courses, according to local media reports.
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