Catholic teachers to strike province-wide next week

Members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association picket outside (January 21, 2020). (Photo by Maureen Revait)

The union representing educators at English Catholic schools will walk out province-wide once again on March 5.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) said Thursday afternoon that a one-day strike will take place across Ontario on Thursday, March 5 if no contract is reached.

Liz Stuart, president of OECTA, said the government has not shown any indication of moving toward a deal.

“Instead of coming to the table with a plan to reach an agreement, the government continued to insist on its deep, permanent cuts,” said Stuart in a news release. “All the while, the Minister of Education has continued his attempts to mislead the public, by making baseless accusations against Catholic teachers and our Association, and by peddling the inaccurate claim that enhancements to our benefits plan is the sticking point in bargaining.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce told fellow Members of Provincial Parliament on Monday, however, that his government was bargaining in good faith. He has previously insisted the union is holding out for higher wages. But the teachers argue it is about class sizes, investments in special education, mandatory e-learning, and addressing violence in the classroom.

OECTA had suspended rotating strikes last week as the two sides returned to the bargaining table, but talks broke off earlier this week. The union had also registered a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), claiming the government had concealed the results of its public consultation, which show education stakeholders and the public unequivocally reject any plan to increase class sizes.

“Our association remains committed to the goal of reaching a fair agreement at the bargaining table. However, we cannot tolerate the Ford government’s penchant for misinformation and mistruth, nor its efforts to dismantle publicly funded education,” said Stuart.

The 45,000 English Catholic educators represented by OECTA have been conducting a work-to-rule campaign since January 13, which will remain in effect up to and after March 5.  The OECTA members have also conducted full withdrawals of service on January 21, February 4, and February 21.

“Catholic teachers understand the long-term consequences of this government’s regressive agenda, and we continue to demonstrate our willingness to stand up and make our voices heard. Parents and the public know that we are the last line of defence against the Ford government’s reckless education cuts,” added Stuart.

-With files from Adelle Loiselle and Kirk Dickinson