One-day strike highlights teachers' frustrations with negotiations

By Jenn Watt

Haliburton Highlands Secondary School was closed Wednesday as teachers participated in a one-day strike demonstrating their frustration at contract negotiations with the provincial government.

Several key issues are at stake said HHSS teacher Ryan Merritt branch president for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation District 15 while out on the picket line Dec. 4.

“What’s proposed by the government is drastically going to change education as we know it and we are here to stop the cuts on classroom sizes [the introduction of mandatory] online learning and yes the wage increase is part of that as well but this action is really propelled by the cuts to classroom resources and how it affects the students” he said.

Currently the provincial government’s bargaining team is proposing class size averages of 25 up from 22 and two mandatory online learning credits as a graduation requirement.

Teachers say increasing the class sizes further divides the teacher’s time giving less attention to students and that e-learning doesn’t work for all students who have various learning styles and skills.

Merritt also pointed out that in Haliburton County not all homes have access to the internet.

In a statement on Wednesday morning Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the government was reasonable in negotiations and said OSSTF “have not made any substantial moves since their first proposal was tabled. Even while the government made enhanced offers there is no indication OSSTF intends to make any moves except to affirm their insistence on a $1.5 billion increase in pay and benefits.”

Responding to previous statements on the increase OSSTF has responded on its website: “ OSSTF/FEESO is proposing the introduction of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) into our collective agreements keeping the real wage increase to zero.”

High school teachers will return to work Thursday Dec. 5 and schools will again be open in Trillium Lakelands District School Board.

See Tuesday’s Haliburton Echo for the full story.