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High school teachers might go on strike

Union threatens to walk out; have been without contract since August

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Secondary school students could be locked out of the classroom at the end of next month.

In a speech to members over the weekend, Paul Elliott, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), said teachers from seven public school districts in the province – including Durham Region – could go on strike by the end of April.

According to Elliott, teachers have been without a contract since August.

“The clock is ticking, and our patience is wearing thin. And with every tick of that clock, these seven districts are moving closer to a full withdrawal of services by the end of April at the very latest,” Elliott said, according to a transcript of his speech posted on the OSSTF website. “Unless we begin to see school boards take this process seriously, unless we see positive movement at those bargaining tables and the removal of any strips those boards are pursuing, unless we see some real improvements, our members will make good on their commitment to job action.”

Michael Barrett, the chair of the Durham District School Board, says negotiations are still ongoing between the school board and the union.

“We’re committed to the procedure of the collective agreement and the negotiations that take place. We’ll continue to work toward a solution,” Barrett says. “I don’t think that there’s been anything said that would necessitate the withdrawal of services.”

Barrett adds that he’s disappointed that it’s come to this stage, seeing as negotiations haven’t hit a road block or have ceased.

“The process hasn’t broken down, nobody has left the table and we’ll continue to work toward solving this at a local level.”

The other districts listed by Elliott during his speech are high school teachers in Peel Region, Halton Region, Ottawa-Carleton, Waterloo, Thunder Bay and Rainbow.

According to the OSSTF website, the union has more than 60,000 members in 37 school districts in Ontario.

If a strike were to happen, primary and Catholic schools would not be affected.