HS teachers to walk out next Wednesday

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Ontario’s public high school teachers will walk off the job next Wednesday in protest against a lack of progress in negotiations with the province.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) announced Thursday that its members will participate in a “one-day, province-wide full withdrawal of services” on Wednesday, December 4, “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 November 26 (Tuesday),” the federation said.

“The announcement of the walkout comes on the heels of two more frustrating days at the bargaining table, yesterday and today.”

“This week we began a job action carefully devised to have no impact on students,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof.

“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.”

“Through months of bargaining, the management team has avoided any meaningful discussion of class size, staffing, mandatory e-learning, or any other issue that impacts the quality of student learning,” Bischof said.

“Even in light of our current job action, far too little has changed at the table. We are left with no choice but to intensify our efforts to defend our education system against a government that has already begun to sabotage it.”

Bischof said teachers recognize that “our one-day walkout will cause short-term disruption in the lives of students and parents, and we are disappointed that we’ve been driven to take this job action.”

“We cannot, however, stand aside and do nothing while the long-term interests of students are being compromised by the Ford government.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he was calling on the OSSTF to remain at the bargaining table.

“Strikes hurt kids,” Lecce said in a statement.

“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 the government has “demonstrated consistently” that it is “reasonable and student-centric by making major moves that have not been matched or reciprocated by the teachers’ unions.”

“In fact, on the days we made reasonable offers – reducing class room sizes from 28 to 25 and reducing online learning courses from four to two – the unions decided to escalate,” Lecce said.

“This is wrong, and our students deserve better.”

“I call on OSSTF to remain at the bargaining table, with third-party, independent mediation, up until the deadline. All parties that are truly committed to the success of our children will consider every tool available to avoid strikes which hurt our students.”

Lecce said the government “will never leave the table” and will continue to “remain available 24/7 to reach a deal that keeps students in class.”