(© Can Stock Photo / tomwang)

One-day strike set for public high school teachers

Teachers and education workers at Ontario’s public secondary schools may walk off the job next week.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) said on Thursday that its members will participate in a one-day, province-wide strike on Wednesday, December 4 if a new collective agreement cannot be reached with the province.

Secondary school teachers began a work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday to put pressure on the province in contract talks. However, the union said the past two days of bargaining have been “frustrating.”

“This week we began a job action carefully devised to have no impact on students,” said OSSTF President Harvey Bischof in a statement.  “It’s clear from these past two days of bargaining, however, that our action is having no impact on the tone or substance of negotiations.”

Bischof added that there have been no meaningful discussions at the bargaining table about any class sizes, staffing, mandatory e-learning, and other issues that impact the quality of student learning.

“Even in light of our current job action, far too little has changed at the table. We are left with no choice but to intensify our efforts to defend our education system against a government that has already begun to sabotage it,” he said. “We do recognize that our one-day walkout will cause short-term disruption in the lives of students and parents, and we are disappointed that we’ve been driven to take this job action. We cannot, however, stand aside and do nothing while the long-term interests of students are being compromised by the Ford government.”

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce issued a statement following the union’s strike announcement and said, “students deserve better.”

“Strikes hurt kids. Our Government has been clear, we want deals that keep students in class. For teacher unions to leave the table, to turn their back on our children, and to escalate to the point of compromising their education, is deeply troubling for parents and our government,” the minister said.

“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,” Lecce added. “In fact, on the days we made reasonable offers — reducing classroom sizes from 28 to 25 and reducing online learning courses from four to two — the unions decided to escalate.”

Lecce said the Ontario government intends to remain at the bargaining table up until the strike deadline in an effort to reach a deal that keeps students in class.

Earlier this fall, union members represented by the OSSTF voted 95.5 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary.