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Labour unrest continues for teachers’ union

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

With high school teachers out of the classroom today, negotiations between the province and three unions continue.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) is set to stage a one-day walkout today (Dec. 4).

The move was announced last week after negotiations began to stall.

If the walkout takes place, it would be the first since 1997 under the Conservative government of Mike Harris.

The secondary school teachers union began information pickets and limited withdrawal of administrative services on Nov. 26.

However, as talks continued between the sides, OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said these actions had “no impact on the tone or substance of negotiations.”

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce noted his disappointment in the union’s decision to stage the one day walkout.

“Our government has been clear, we want deals that keep students in class. For teacher unions to leave the table, to turn their back on our children, and to escalate to the point of compromising their education, is deeply troubling for parents and our government,” Lecce said in a media statement.

One of the most contentious issues between the union and Ministry of Education is class sizes.

Earlier this year, the Ford government announced plans to increase the average secondary school class size from 22 to 28 students.

This goal was later reduced to 25 students.

In a Dec. 1 statement by Bischof, he referenced a report by Global News that nearly 70 per cent of parents consulted by the government feel increasing class sizes would negatively impact students.

The Oshawa Express could not independently verify these figures as of press time.

The results of those parent consultations have yet to be publicly released.

The contract between the province and OSSTF expired on Aug. 31, 2019.

Meanwhile, members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) continue work-to-rule action which began on Nov. 26.

ETFO released a list of more than 20 “administrative” actions educators are not to participate in.

These include any EQAO-related activities, professional learning through school boards or the Ministry of Education, school board activities on PA days, or responding to electronic communications from direct supervisors outside of the work day.

Teachers have been instructed not to complete report cards for the first term of this school year. However, teachers will provide a list of marks to school administrators.

ETFO has also instructed teachers to meet together at their schools 15 minutes before the day starts.

Union officials have said these strike actions will continue until the dispute with the provincial government has been “satisfactorily resolved” or until the provincial executive calls for further action.

Meanwhile, Catholic secondary school teachers in Ontario are moving towards a legal strike position.

On Friday, Nov. 29, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association requested a “no-board report.”

If an agreement is not made moving forward, the union will move towards a strike position later this month.

OECTA members voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action early in November.