Ontario High school teachers and the province to resume talks this weekend as threat of one-day strike looms

Ontario High school teachers and the province to resume talks this weekend as threat of one-day strike looms

Talks resume this weekend between the province and the union representing public high school teachers in a bid to avert a day-long strike next Wednesday.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) says its 60,000 members — including teachers, speech-language pathologists, social workers and office staff — will walk off the job Dec. 4 if the two sides haven’t reached, or aren’t close, to a deal.

All 31 English public boards would be impacted by the strike, as well as eight English Catholic and eight French boards.

The union has said the move is necessary as ongoing negotiations have stalled.

The “full withdrawal of services” on Dec. 4 – a first for the union in more than two decades — was announced Thursday by OSSTF president Harvey Bischof.

“This is intended to draw further attention to this government’s destructive cuts to the education system,” said Bischof, whose members have been on a work-to-rule since Tuesday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the escalation is “deeply troubling,” and said the union needs to be reasonable at the bargaining table.

“Strikes hurt kids,” said Lecce, adding that teachers should not “turn their backs on our children, and to escalate to the point of compromising their education,” especially after just two days on a work-to rule.

“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.”

If Wednesday’s strike action goes ahead it would mark the first all-out strike for the union since 1997.

Class sizes, e-learning and salary are among the outstanding issues.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is also currently staging a largely administrative work-to-rule, and has not announced any plans for a strike.

The province’s Catholic and French-language teacher unions are not yet in a legal strike position.

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Kristin Rushowy

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