The union that represents public high school teachers in Ontario told students and parents to get ready for a one-day strike on Wednesday unless it reaches a tentative agreement with the province before midnight.
“In the absence of any other announcement and any update, prepare for a strike tomorrow,” Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), told reporters Tuesday night. “We will be back in class on Thursday.”
Bischof said the government has not presented any new proposals in the past four days of bargaining at a downtown Toronto hotel. He said “the odds are sadly slim” that both sides are likely to reach any kind of agreement by the midnight deadline.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the strike would be “needless escalation.”
“Our government has remained reasonable at the negotiating table, with the objective of keeping students in class,” Lecce told reporters at a news conference earlier on Tuesday.
The union, which represents 60,000 members, says it is fighting to reverse cuts to the province’s classrooms — which it says are harming students’ ability to get a good education.
But the minister says since the Ontario government first began bargaining, the union has not made any “substantive moves” to reach a deal. He said the union is insisting on a $1.5 billion increase in pay and benefits.
“The onus is on OSSTF to be reasonable, stay at the table, and to cancel this needless escalation that is hurting children, parents, and families,” Lecce said.
Contract talks appeared to be at a standstill on Tuesday. A one-day strike could close many schools across the province.
Earlier, Lecce had said his bargaining team had presented a new “framework” to negotiators for the OSSTF in an attempt to keep all parties at the table. But the union disputed that.
Both sides are bargaining at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto.