Catholic, French-language teachers in Ottawa and eastern Ontario plan one-day strike Thursday despite new proposal
(The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)
OTTAWA -- One day after the Ontario Government backed down on proposals to increase high school class sizes and e-learning, unions are set to proceed with a one-day strike in Catholic and French-language schools in Ottawa and eastern Ontario on Thursday.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce is calling on teachers unions to cancel the planned strikes this week and return to the bargaining table.
Speaking on CTV Morning Live Wednesday morning, Lecce said "I hope the unions will do two things. One, they'll return to the table and negotiate with us in good faith to get a deal. And two, they'll cancel the strikes planned for the coming days and weeks while we work on that."
"The energy should really be expended on a deal, not on escalations. It's just hurting kids."
On Thursday, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and the union representing French-language teachers will hold a one-day strike.
The strike would cancel classes for elementary and secondary school students in the Ottawa Catholic District School Board, the Upper Canada District School Board, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, plus all French-language public and catholic schools in Ottawa and eastern Ontario.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is planning to hold a one-day strike in several boards on Friday, but none of the boards are in eastern Ontario.
On Tuesday, the Progressive Conservative government backed down on proposals to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning policies.
Lecce said the government will increase class sizes in Ontario high schools from the current provincial average of 22.9 up to an average of 23 students per classroom.
"I think if we don't have a deal with the teacher unions in short order I think what it shows that it wasn't about, in fact, education or students. Because the outstanding issues really lie around benefits and compensation, and merit based hiring," said Lecce on CTV Morning Live.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association says it had informed the mediator that it would be willing to resume talks today, and to continue to bargain on Thursday and Friday if the discussions were productive.
But OECTA added “the government has yet to accept our offer.”
OECTA President Liz Stuart had called on the Ontario Government to move away from the plan to increase class sizes and “eliminate tens of thousands of course options.”
“We are prepared to accept the salary they have offered at the bargaining table, in order to bring stability and certainty into our schools for our students and parents.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation held two days of exploratory talks with the Ontario Government.
In a Tweet Tuesday evening, OSSTF said “exploratory talks have now ended. We have no future bargaining dates scheduled at this time.”
Speaking on CFRA’s Ottawa Now on Tuesday, OSSTF President Harvey Bischof said the Education Minister interrupted negotiations to make his announcement on class sizes and e-learning.
“Should they put these proposals on paper, pass them to us across the bargaining table, I will say we have made progress.”