OSSTF, province to resume talks next week after another one-day strike
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2019 7:03AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 12, 2019 5:18PM EST
High school teachers in Toronto and other parts of the province walked off the job again today for another one-day strike, but agreed later on Wednesday to get back to the bargaining table next week.
Exactly one week after Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) members held a single-day strike that closed schools province-wide, similar labour action is being taken today.
The strike will close all high schools in the Toronto District School Board, the Simcoe County District School Board, the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, the Grand Erie District School Board, the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, the Near North District School Board, the Rainy River District School Board, and the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
The TDSB has cited a lack of sufficient supervision as the primary reason for the school closures.
Schools in the regions of York, Peel, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth and Durham are open today.
OSSTF President Harvey Bischof says talks have stalled between the union and the province due to a lack of movement on three key issues, including the province’s refusal to abandon plans to raise class sizes, and its decision introduce mandatory e-learning courses.
The province claims the dispute between the two sides is primarily related to wages.
The Ontario government has passed a bill to cap wage increases for all public-sector workers at 1 per cent, however high school teachers are asking for a two per cent increase to account for inflation.
Stephen Lecce, the province’s education minister, claims that accepting all of the OSSTF’s terms would cost about approximately $7 billion by 2022 if those terms are then extended to the other unions across the education sector.
“The taxpayer needs to know, and I think families in Ontario, parents in Ontario need to know, that in order for us to get a deal apparently with OSSTF… (it) will cost taxpayers $7 billion dollars,” Lecce said.
Speaking to CP24 on Wednesday, Bichof said the province is “deliberately inflating the numbers.”
“I bargain for OSSTF support staff and teachers,” he said. “Treat each bargaining table as its own entity. We each bargain on behalf of our own members, which is the appropriate way to do things.”
Bischof said the last time the two sides were at the bargaining table was on Dec. 3 and the union has put forward dates through the mediator.
By Wednesday afternoon, the two sides had announced they accepted offers to meet at the bargaining table with a mediator on Dec. 16 and 17.
It should be noted that the OSSTF offered to postpone today’s one-day strike and agree to private mediation if the government promised to reverse its plans to increase class sizes and implement mandatory e-learning. The union also asked to be exempt from the province’s one per cent wage cap legislation.
"If the minister can give me an explanation of the difference in the skillset between a private mediator and the one we have right now, great. But really that’s not a sticking point. That’s a distraction from the issues at the table," Bischof said.
"My members aren’t going to suddenly say loss of support staff, massively increased class sizes, mandatory e-learning are acceptable because we have a private mediator joining us."
All schools impacted by today's strike will reopen on Thursday.
On Thursday, all four major teaching unions representing English public, English Catholic, French Public and French Catholic are set to make an announcement at Queen's Park related to bargaining.