Catholic board teachers to hold another one-day strike on Feb. 4
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, January 28, 2020 11:23AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 28, 2020 5:27PM EST
Catholic school teachers will hold another province-wide walkout next week, just two days ahead of a similar one-day withdrawal of services by elementary teachers in Ontario’s secular school boards.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association announced the escalated job action on Tuesday morning.
The union says that its members will walk off the job for one day on Feb. 4, marking their second province-wide withdrawal of services over the last two weeks.
The job action is in addition to another province-wide, one-day strikes planned by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario for Feb. 6.
That union will also be conducting rotating strikes in dozens of school boards next week, including one that will affect the Toronto and York district school boards on Feb. 7.
“We know Ontarians are growing impatient with these negotiations. Frankly, we share their frustration,” OECTA President Liz Stuart said in a press release announcing the escalated job action. “But we cannot allow this government to wear us all down and force us to accept their devastating cuts. The long-term consequences for our schools and our students are simply unacceptable. Strike action is tough for everyone, but it is a sacrifice we need to make to show the government we will not be deterred in our efforts to protect what we have worked so hard to build.”
All four of the province’s public school teacher unions are currently engaged in some sort of job action, including OECTA.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has previously accused the unions of needlessly escalating job action at the expense of students.
In a statement issued following OECTA’s announcement on Tuesday, he said that “union leaders are prepared to stand up for things like higher benefits for their members but appear unable to stand up for the basic expectation that students should learn each and every day.”
Stuart, meanwhile, said in the press release that Lecce’s government has “no mandate” to pursue changes to the public education system, such as increased class sizes.
“The government did not campaign on any of these policies, and they have no mandate from Ontarians to impose them,” she said. “We are already seeing overcrowded classrooms, severely reduced course options, and the loss of vital supports for vulnerable students. What option do teachers have but to do everything in our power to keep the government from making things worse?”
OECTA has not sat down with provincial negotiators since Jan. 9 and there are not currently any bargaining dates booked, though Stuart told CP24 on Tuesday that the union would “absolutely” be willing to return to the table if invited to do so by the mediator.
“If the mediator comes to us and says that they believe the sides can come together then we will be there,” she said.
Talks between the province and ETFO had been on hold since mid-December; however Lecce confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that a mediator has called the two sides back to the table for tomorrow. No additional bargaining dates have been provided.
"We look forward to the opportunity to negotiate to reach a voluntary settlement that ends the union-led escalation that is hurting so many students," he said in a separate statement. "Our aim has always been to reach a negotiated settlement that keeps kids in class, which we have done successfully with multiple labour partners to date."