Ontario high school teachers to target certain boards with one-day strike next Wednesday

Ontario high school teachers to target certain boards with one-day strike next Wednesday

Ontario’s public high school teachers will hold another daylong walkout next Wednesday, a week after their first strike.

But this time, instead of all 60,000 members hitting the picket line, certain boards across the province will be targeted.

The first instance of rotating strikes is meant to up the pressure on Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government as negotiations have hit an impasse.

About one-quarter of teachers and education workers represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) will take part in the job action — including the 7,000 members in Toronto.

“We are disappointed and mystified at the government’s apparent indifference to the legitimate and well-documented concerns of parents, students, and educators alike,” union president Harvey Bischof said Friday.

“Owing to that indifference, our efforts at the bargaining table and our job actions to this point have yielded virtually no progress. We have no choice but to continue our efforts,” said Bischof.

“We absolutely understand that our targeted job actions create a temporary disruption for the students and families affected,” he said.

“By contrast, the Doug Ford agenda, if it is allowed to be implemented, will create long-term disruption for students across the entire education system, and leave publicly-funded education in Ontario deeply and permanently damaged.”

The OSSTF said each “quadrant” of the province will be represented in the one-day strike. Some elementary schools will also be impacted, as well as Catholic and French boards.

But the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which is also in a legal strike position, will not be taking part.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association will be in a legal strike position Dec. 21, but said no job action has been planned as yet.

Bischof emphasized the government’s planned changes will impact the quality of education in the province. It opposes boosting class-size averages from the current 22 to 25, a move that will lead to the loss of thousands of teaching positions as well as course options for teens.

That is down from the province’s original plan for an average of 28.

Teachers also oppose two mandatory online courses — a requirement that is to begin next fall with the incoming Grade 9 incoming class, with the union instead proposing a panel to study the effectiveness of such a move.

Two courses would be an anomaly in North America, where only a handful of American states require or encourage just one. The Conservatives had originally proposed four e-learning courses in high school.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the main issue in talks is salary, with the province offering one per cent — in line with recent wage-cap legislation it passed — and OSSTF seeking cost of living increases, or about two per cent.

Lecce on Friday urged the unions not to escalate their job action.

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Along with the Toronto District School Board high schools, OSSTF members will hit the bricks in the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District, Grand Erie District, Hastings and Prince Edward District, Near North District, Rainy River District, Simcoe County District, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District, and the Trillium Lakelands District school board.

More than 20 French Catholic schools will be affected, including École élémentaire catholique Saint-Noël-Chabanel and École élémentaire catholique du Sacré-Coeur in Toronto.

With files from Robert Benzie

Kristin Rushowy

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