Teachers and education workers represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) will will stage a one-day, province-wide walkout on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
OSSTF president Harvey Bischof announced Thursday that the strike will go ahead if a new agreement is not reached before then.
The one-day strike will follow six days of information pickets and a limited withdrawal of administrative services that began Tuesday.
“We came to the table this week with some hope. After two days, regrettably, the parties remain far apart,” Bischof said during a news conference at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.
“This week we began a job action carefully devised to have no impact on students. It’s clear from these past two days of bargaining, however, that our action is having no impact on the tone or substance of negotiations.”
‘We have been driven to this action’
Bischof said the government is still trying to impose mandatory e-learning, larger class sizes and other measures that would degrade the quality of education in the province, even after months of largely fruitless bargaining with union officials.
“The erosion of education is happening now. We can’t wait any longer for this to continue. We have been driven to this action.”
Bischof said the strike will see all the province’s public high school teachers withdraw full service for the day before resuming classes on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Education minister urges continued talks
Education Minister Stephen Lecce described the union’s action as “troubling.”
“For teacher unions to leave the table, to turn their backs on our children and to escalate to the point of compromising their education, is troubling for parents and for our government,” Lecce said.
“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.”
Lecce said parties that are truly committed to the success of children will consider every tool available to avoid strikes, which he said hurt kids. He called on the OSSTF to remain at the bargaining table with third-party independent mediation “up until the deadline.”
“Our aim, as was the case with CUPE, is to get a deal, which provides continuity for parents and educational stability for our students.”
Public high school teachers started an administrative work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday that included not putting comments on report cards, not participating in standardized testing and not attending certain meetings.
Ontario’s four major teachers’ unions have all expressed frustration with what they say has been a lack of progress at the bargaining table with the province.
Elementary teachers also started an administrative work-to-rule campaign this week.
The Catholic teachers’ union has talks scheduled Friday involving a conciliator, and French teachers will hold strike votes next month.
Keep kids in the classroom: Premier
Responding to the announcement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government’s goal is to keep kids in the classroom and make sure they have a safe environment in which to go to school.
“We’re doing everything we can to strike a deal, and I think we’ve shown good faith and all the confidence in the world, and Minister Lecce, I think he’s doing an incredible job,” Ford told reporters on Thursday.