Ontario high school teachers, education workers at 16 boards to hold another 1-day strike

TORONTO – High school teachers in more than a dozen boards across the province are set to strike Wednesday, as all of the major teachers’ unions ramp up pressure on the government amid contentious contract talks.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation members will stage a one-day strike at boards including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Upper Grand District School Board, Durham District School Board and several across the north.

It also includes the Provincial Schools Authority, which is responsible for five provincial and demonstration schools for students with disabilities.

Union president Harvey Bischof says he’ll call off the job action if the government takes class size increases off the table.

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“It’s time for the Ford government to come to the table with meaningful responses to our proposals so that we can work toward a deal that protects the quality of education in Ontario,” Bischof said in a statement.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said the key sticking point in negotiations with high school teachers is compensation, with the union demanding a roughly two-per-cent wage increase and the government offering one per cent.

“These union leaders will forcefully advocate for the interests of their members – from higher wages to enhanced entitlements however they ought not oppose the academic aspirations of our students,” Lecce said in a statement Friday.

“Students should be in class. It is most concerning that teacher unions leaders disagree and continue to impede learning for the next generation.”

The strike will be the latest in a series of rotating strikes by the OSSTF and will be one of several job actions by teachers next week.

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Elementary teachers are adding to a work-to-rule campaign Monday by no longer supervising extra-curricular activities outside regular school hours, participating in field trips, or participating in assemblies, except to supervise students. They also plan to start rotating strikes Jan. 20.

Teachers in the English Catholic system are starting their own work-to-rule campaign Monday, including not participating in standardized testing, preparing report card comments or participating in Ministry of Education initiatives.

Boards across the province are postponing Monday’s scheduled EQAO standardized Grade 9 math test, with high school teachers also forgoing EQAO preparation as part of their own work-to-rule campaign since November.

The teachers’ unions are presenting a united front against the government, angered that before this round of talks even started the Tories announced class size increases, mandatory e-learning courses and legislated caps on salary increases.

The four major unions have joined together to take out a full-page ad Saturday in 16 newspapers across the province, saying Premier Doug Ford’s proposed education changes are “having a profoundly negative impact on Ontario’s world-class education system.”

Teachers were dismayed when the Tories announced in March that average secondary school class sizes would jump from 22 to 28 and four e-learning courses would be mandatory for graduation. The province has since scaled back those increases, to an average class size of 25 and two e-learning courses, but the unions say that’s not good enough.

Other boards affected by Wednesday’s OSSTF strike include:

– Keewatin-Patricia District School Board

– District School Board Ontario North East

– Moose Factory Island District Area School Board

– James Bay Lowlands Secondary School Board

– Rainbow District School Board

– Bluewater District School Board

– Upper Canada District School Board

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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