Thousands of Six Nations students and teachers have become unwitting participants in the strike initiated by the Public Service Alliance of Canada last week.
As of last Wednesday, Six Nations schools have sat empty after PSAC refused a government offer of a nine percent raise over three years, as opposed to its demands for a 13 percent increase over three years.
Since Six Nations schools are federally-funded, teachers make up part of the 200,000 workers across the country currently on strike.
PSAC President Chris Aylward authorized a national general strike beginning at 12:01 a.m. last Wednesday (Apr. 19) April 19, excluding essential workers.
Other issues at stake for the union include job security and remote work.
Ohsweken Public Health is also affected by the strike, as they are employed by Health Canada, but Six Nations Elected Council said nurses will not be on strike as they are considered essential workers.
The five schools affected are Jamieson Elementary, J.C. Hill Elementary, Emily C. General Elementary, I.L. Thomas Elementary, and Oliver M. Smith Elementary.
The strike has impacted more than 1,100 Six Nations students and their families.
Maintenance staff can exercise their right to strike, which may affect the maintenance at Ohsweken Public Health.
“The PSAC strike has impacted our Six Nations of the Grand River community and has the SNGR Elected Council concerned for all of our members, students and families,” said Chief Mark Hill. “We are maintaining regular contact with federal officials in hopes of alleviating as much stress as possible through this difficult time. We will continue to assert political pressure to get all those affected in our community back to their regular routines as quickly as possible”.
Indigenous Services Canada told CTV news it is working with Six Nations to help provide learning resources during the strike but didn’t specify what those resources are.
The strike echoes the issues Six Nations students faced during Covid shutdowns, with poor and limited internet access throughout the reserve meaning students will once again face connectivity issues when trying to learn remotely.
Meanwhile, Travis Anderson, director of federal schools and former OMSK principal, apologized to students, teachers and families in a letter.
“We know this is not welcomed news and we understand the impact this will have on families. Without federal teaching staff in our schools, we could not ensure safe conditions for students. The decision to close schools to students is a difficult one but required for overall student safety and security.”