Public high schools across Ontario are shut down today as teachers stage a one-day strike amid tense contract talks with Doug Ford’s government.
The moves are affecting public school boards, tens of thousands of students and parents, who have been left scrambling to find alternate arrangements for their children. Some after-school and night programs are also affected by the walkout.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), representing over 60,000 members, launched the strike at midnight Tuesday night following another failed day of negotiations with the government. The union has had difficult negotiations with previous provincial governments, but this is the first time since 1997 its members have gone on strike.
Ford’s government is also locked in contract talks with public elementary teachers, who are currently staging a work-to-rule campaign, and English Catholic teachers, who will be in a legal strike position before Christmas.
Teachers are expected to set up picket lines at local schools Wednesday. The union’s leadership will provide an update starting at 9:30 a.m. ET.
You can watch that live in the video below:
Also Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce blasted the union, calling the one-day strike “unacceptable” for Ontario families.
“Our students deserve to be in class today,” he told CBC Radio on Wednesday morning.
Lecce defended his government’s role in bargaining, saying it had made a number of moves at the table. However, he said the union has rejected the government’s ask that it come up with its own proposals to help cut costs in the education system.
“They’ve said no, no and no.”
Ford’s government is also locked in contract talks with public elementary teachers, who are staging a work-to-rule campaign, and English Catholic teachers, who will be in a legal strike position before Christmas.
Union, government appear to be struggling with negotiations
Lecce wouldn’t confirm if he had offered to reconsider class size increases if teachers would agree to one per cent wage increases, but indicated that’s the wage increase the government is offering.
“We’ve offered one per cent knowing they’re the second highest paid in the nation.”
At a news conference Tuesday night, Harvey Bischof, president of the OSSTF, said the government had not presented any new proposals in the past four days of bargaining at a downtown Toronto hotel.
The union says its main issue is with the government’s plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses.
“We came to the hotel on Saturday morning four days ago with hope, hope that the government would finally move forward with proposals that are good for Ontario students,” Bischof said.
“Over four days of bargaining, the Ford government did not forward a single proposal to secure quality of education for Ontario students, not a single proposal to protect class sizes [and] not a single proposal to ensure students have access to the support staff that some of them require to be successful.”
The OSSTF has been without a contract since the end of August and started a work-to-rule campaign last week.