By Jenn Watt
Action by teachers in Ontario is intensifying this week with the secondary school union announcing they will strike for one day on Wednesday Dec. 4 if no deal with the province is reached.
Harvey Bischof president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said in a letter to members that meaningful progress had not been made at the bargaining table pointing out that the process had been ongoing for eight months.
“The Minister [of Education] has also undermined negotiations through press conferences at which he has publicly announced bargaining positions that have not been presented by his negotiating teams at the table. He publicly claims that compensation is the only issue preventing a deal yet his bargaining team has simply refused to address our proposals on crucial issues including class size e-learning and job security for our members” Bischof said.
OSSTF members had previously stopped providing some administrative services and held information pickets to get the word out.
“This one-day full withdrawal of services will cause a short-term disruption for our students but if we allow this government to continue down the path it is on students will suffer the negative impacts for years to come” Bischof said.
Responding to the OSSTF announcement of an upcoming one-day strike Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the action was troubling and would hurt students.
“Our government has demonstrated consistently it is reasonable and student-centric by making major moves that have not been matched or reciprocated by the teachers’ unions. In fact on the days we made reasonable offers – reducing class room sizes from 28 to 25 and reducing online learning courses from four to two – the unions decided to escalate. This is wrong and our students deserve better” he said.
“I call on OSSTF to remain at the bargaining table with third-party independent mediation up until the deadline. All parties that are truly committed to the success of our children will consider every tool available to avoid strikes which hurt our students.”
Trillium Lakelands District School Board said if the strike takes place all secondary schools and adult and alternate education centres will be closed to students. They will reopen Thursday Dec. 5.
The board said in an email to parents that they will be notified on Tuesday if the strike is set to proceed on Wednesday.
Elementary school teachers are currently taking work-to-rule job action cutting out many tasks they previously conducted such as commenting on report cards and attending unpaid staff meetings outside of the regular school day.
They met with the provincial government’s bargaining team on Monday with no updates before press time however in a statement released on Friday the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario expressed frustration about how the process had been going.
“ETFO wants to reach a fair deal and our bargaining team has been working hard to achieve that goal” said ETFO’s president Sam Hammond. “We come ready every time to have meaningful discussions on issues that are important to our members. But we are not seeing the same commitment on the government’s part.”
Class size violence in schools and supports for students are issues ETFO says it has been working on improving through negotiations but says there has been “almost no progress” on those issues after four months of bargaining.
Updates from TLDSB on the OSSTF and ETFO job actions can be found at www.tldsb.ca/labour-updates.