With high school exams now over, Ontario’s public secondary teachers will resume their rotating, one-day strikes next week.
On Tuesday Feb. 4, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation will target a dozen boards, including Halton public, York’s public and Catholic boards as well as Waterloo’s public and Catholic.
The 60,000 member union represents teachers as well as education assistants, early childhood educators, psychologists and speech-language pathologists in boards across the province.
News of the one-day walkouts came Thursday as talks continued for a second day between the province and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, seen as an early positive sign in the impasse between the Ford government and all four teacher unions.
The government is also negotiating with the union representing French-language educators, but has no talks scheduled with the secondary union, nor the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association — which is also holding a day-long, province-wide strike next Tuesday, their second such job action.
Harvey Bischof, president of the secondary school teachers’ union, said the one-day strike can be averted if the Ford government “agrees to return to, and maintain, the class-size ratios and staffing levels that were in place in Ontario schools just one year ago.”
The province plans to boost secondary class sizes from last year’s average of 22 to 25, which would mean the loss of thousands of teaching positions as well as course options for teens. It also wants to introduce two, mandatory online credits starting next fall, a controversial move which would be a first in North America.
Neither move is popular with the public, and is opposed not only by the unions but also school boards, principals associations as well as the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association which advocates for the province’s two million students.
Bischof said his members “are not the only ones who understand the enormity of the damage that will ensue if this government’s education agenda is allowed to unfold. It is now clear from multiple polls, and even from the government’s own public consultations, that a significant majority of Ontarians recognize the folly of larger classes, diminished supports, mandatory online learning, and fewer course options for the province’s students.”
He said if Premier Doug Ford “is even remotely serious about providing ‘government for the people,’ then he will acknowledge that Ontarians have roundly rejected his education agenda, and he will direct his minister of education to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a deal that preserves the quality of one of the best education systems in the world.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce has called on the unions to end their one-day strikes, saying such job action only hurts students.
And last week, Ford said he has limited patience for the teacher walkouts, and vowed the government will not budge on its offer of a one per cent annual wage increase.
Teachers are seeking a raise equal to the cost of living, or about two per cent.
Boards impacted by the high school teachers walkout next week are:
- Lakehead District School Board
- Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
- Lambton Kent District School Board
- Thames Valley District School Board
- Waterloo Region District School Board
- Waterloo Catholic District School Board
- York Region District School Board
- York Catholic District School Board
- Halton District School Board
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- Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
- Some schools in the Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir
- Some schools in the Conseil scolaire Viamonde