TORONTO – Ontario’s Catholic teachers will be in a legal strike position over the winter break, and while they don’t have any job action plans yet, their union says it should be “another wake-up call” for the government.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said it has received a “no board” report, which puts them in a legal strike position on Dec. 21.
The union requested the report on Friday, saying there was little prospect for further progress after a day of contract talks with the government assisted by a conciliator.
“This ‘no-board’ should serve as another wake-up call for Premier (Doug) Ford and (Education Minister Stephen) Lecce that it is time to get their act together,” OECTA president Liz Stuart said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, while they claim to be bargaining in good faith and making reasonable offers, the reality is the Ford government continues to focus more on public posturing than reaching an agreement.”
Catholic teachers have two days of bargaining scheduled this week and two more next week.
Lecce said he is disappointed OECTA has taken another step toward job action.
“Parents will have seen these types of practices demonstrated by teacher union leaders throughout a generation,” he said. “I do think it is regrettable this is the path they have chosen.”
“I’ve been clear – I want to get deals that keep the children of this province in school,” the minister said in a statement. “My team is ready to continue meeting to negotiate a deal that puts our students first and provides the predictability parents deserve.”
The development comes a day after public high school teachers staged a one-day strike.
They were back in class Thursday, but are continuing with an administrative work-to-rule campaign and warn there could be more walk-outs if the government doesn’t change course in contract talks.
High school teachers are pushing back against government plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses. Lecce has said the key issue at that table is compensation, with the government offering a one-per-cent increase a year, but the union seeking around two per cent.
Elementary teachers have also been conducting a work-to-rule campaign, saying their key issues are more supports for students with special needs, addressing violence in schools and preserving full-day kindergarten. They are also seeking higher wage increases than the government’s offer.
The difference between providing teachers and education workers across the major unions with two-per-cent raises instead of one per cent is $750 million over four years, Lecce said. That would be about $188 million a year.
He said that money could build 92 new schools or heat every public school in the province for a year and a half.
But opposition critics said the government has also recently “wasted” $231 million to cancel green energy contracts and $30 million to fight against the federal carbon tax.
“This is a question of priorities, absolutely,” said NDP education critic Marit Stiles. “The government can spend hundreds of millions of dollars cancelling contracts and taking everyone to court…and yet somehow they don’t have the money to invest in education.”
© 2019 The Canadian Press