01/09/2013 04:07 EST | Updated 03/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Ontario public elementary teachers to hold one-day strike Friday

Ontario's public elementary teachers will stage a "one-day political protest" on Friday in response to the provincial government’s move to impose contracts on them.

A statement from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) issued Wednesday says that its members voted overwhelmingly last month in favour of launching a one-day protest if the government used contentious legislation to impose contracts.

The union says that when Education Minister Laurel Broten announced last week that the government would impose contracts, the die was cast.

"Our members voted overwhelmingly back in the fall to protest if the government imposes a contracted," said Lisa Hammond, president of ETFO's Hamilton-Wentworth Teacher local.

"The government has imposed a contract on us, so we're going to do just that."

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board responded Wednesday afternoon, indicating its elementary schools would be closed on Friday.

“Without teachers in our schools, it will be impossible to maintain a safe environment, so we're cancelling classes and transportation for our elementary schools,” said board chair Tim Simmons.

“It's one-day only and we're going to provide students, families and stakeholders with updates as things progress.”

Classes will resume on Monday, he added.

The elementary teachers had launched a wave of rotating, day-long strikes in December, in protest against Bill 115, the legislation that gave the government the power to impose contracts.

Broten has warned the elementary teachers that any strike action they now pursue will be considered illegal.

But imposing any penalties on striking teachers would be up to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, Broten has said.

"We don't see that as an illegal strike," Hammond said. "We see this a political protest.

"Should the issue of any kind of legal action rise from the government, we'll have to deal with that at that time."