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Teachers and education workers gathered outside the Ontario legislature in August to protest against a controversial bill to impose wage freezes on Ontario teachers.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

If the province stops teachers from holding one-day walkouts, they will have a protest and march at Queen's Park, effectively shutting down schools for one day before Christmas, a union official says.

Members of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario will start one-day walkouts in the second week of December that are expected to hit different boards on different days. Education Minister Laurel Broten indicated this week that the government has the power to intervene and keep students in the classroom.

"The rotating strikes will take place board-by-board. Or in the event of an intervention by the minister, a day of protest would take place ... and that would happen sooner rather than later," Martin Long, president of the union local representing Toronto's elementary teachers, said on Friday.

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The action by about 76,000 teachers is in response to legislation – Bill 115 – that dictates the terms of their contracts and restricts their ability to strike. Leaders of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation will meet on Monday to discuss next steps after their members voted down locally bargained deals and talks fell apart. Some want high-school teachers to join their elementary school counterparts, sources said, but no decision will be made before Monday. High-school teachers at nearly all of the province's 31 public-school boards are in a legal strike position.

Elementary teachers will vote Sunday on giving union leaders the authority to carry out a day of protest if the government blocks walkouts. For outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty, who built his political record on achieving labour peace in schools, the demonstration would rekindle memories of throngs of furious teachers protesting against former premier Mike Harris on the front lawn of Queen's Park in the 1990s.

Sam Hammond, president of Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, told members in a speech on Thursday evening that they will be informed of the date of strike action by their local bargaining teams.

"Members should expect one full day withdrawal of services before the end of school in December," he said, according to a copy of his speech obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Teachers at York Region, Trillium Lakelands, Rainy River, Kawartha Pine Ridge and Upper Grand district school boards are in a legal strike position, and are likely to be the first to walk out. Toronto, Peel and Durham will join them Dec. 10, and begin work-to-rule actions. Teachers on work-to-rule will stop participating in all extracurricular activities, field trips, after-school holiday concerts and parent-teacher meetings, or face a penalty of up to $500, according to a bulletin sent to ETFO's Toronto members.

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