The union representing Ontario’s public high school teachers says they have begun a one-day strike after ongoing contract negotiation talks stalled.
The strike, which was formally announced through a statement after an earlier update on negotiations, began at midnight on Wednesday.
“We came to the hotel on Saturday morning four days ago with hope — hope that the government would finally move forward with proposals that are good for Ontario students,” Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), told reporters during a news conference at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto Tuesday evening.
“Over four days of bargaining, the Ford government did not forward a single proposal to secure quality of education for Ontario students, not a single proposal to protect class sizes (and) not a single proposal to ensure students have access to the support staff that some of them require to be successful.”
Bischof’s statement came moments after Education Minister Stephen Lecce organized a last-minute news conference to ask the union and educators to not walk off the job.
“I’m calling on the OSSTF this evening to cancel strike action tomorrow, to continue bargaining and to reach a deal that keeps kids in class,” Lecce said.
“I want OSSTF to commit to exploring all options available including independent, third-party mediation so we can resolve this.”
Lecce said he’s proposing the same type of mediation that saw the Ontario government come to a contract agreement with CUPE education workers in October.
Amid an ongoing work-to-rule campaign, OSSTF announced last week that teachers could walk off the job on Wednesday in order to turn up the pressure during tense labour negotiations with the Progressive Conservative government. The union hasn’t had a contract in place since August.
Sources familiar with the negotiating positions of the Ontario government and the OSSTF, but not authorized to speak publicly, previously told Global News issues surrounding compensation, class sizes, e-learning and layoffs have been major points of contention at the bargaining table.
Lecce said the main issue in the talks is compensation, with the government recently passing legislation to cap annual wage increases for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The union is asking for inflationary increases, which would amount to about two per cent.
The minister said the government remains ready to bargain, but did not provide any further details of the new framework apparently offered on Tuesday. Lecce said the teachers’ union is choosing to escalate the talks and said governments of all political stripes have faced similar challenges over the past few decades.
Bischof dismissed the claim that compensation is the main issue as “outrageous,” going on to accuse Lecce of engaging in “stunts” and not bargaining “in good faith.”
He reiterated that educators will be back in Ontario classrooms on Thursday.
“While we sympathize absolutely with students and parents who are facing disruption and anxiety, a single-day strike doesn’t come close to the kind of disruption that this government will wreak on the education system if they’re allowed to go forward with their destructive proposals,” Bischoff said.
Some of the province’s largest school boards – including the Toronto District School Board and Peel District School Board – have said they will be forced to close their high schools in the event of job action.
Boards where OSSTF also represents education workers – like the Waterloo Region District School Board and Ottawa-Carleton District School Board – were scheduled to close both high schools and elementary schools in the event of strike action.
School boards officials across Ontario were posting updates on their websites about how strike action was impacting operations.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Ryan Rocca
— OSSTF Communications (@osstf) December 4, 2019
As a tentative agreement has not yet been reached, OSSTF (secondary teachers & education workers) is proceeding with the previously announced one-day walkout for Wednesday, December 4. As a result, TDSB secondary schools are closed to students. https://t.co/kdJhk16vAZ pic.twitter.com/YOIsIu3Uhf
— Toronto District School Board (@tdsb) December 4, 2019
CONFIRMED: All Peel board secondary schools (grades 9-12) are closed to students on Dec. 4 due to one-day OSSTF strike. They will reopen on Dec. 5.
Elementary schools (K-8) remain open to students.
— Peelschools (@PeelSchools) December 4, 2019
OSSTF has confirmed a full one day strike on Wednesday, December 4. Reminder that secondary schools are closed to students for the day. Secondary schools will reopen for students on Dec. 5. Elementary Schools remain open. pic.twitter.com/WkmA3DjZZo
— York Region DSB (@YRDSB) December 4, 2019
OSSTF confirm one-day job action will occur on Wednesday, December 4. For details, please visit labour updates at https://t.co/cmcXufJKIA for contingency plans. Also, see statement below from the Chair of the Board. https://t.co/A8sKMaU9Gc
— HWDSB (@HWDSB) December 4, 2019
Labour Update (Dec. 4): We have been notified that OSSTF will engage in a full one-day walkout on Wednesday, Dec. 4. As a result, HDSB secondary schools will be closed on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Elementary schools will be open. Learn more: https://t.co/MPZg6HhEFc pic.twitter.com/1En8jj0kdw
— HDSB (@HaltonDSB) December 4, 2019
If there is a change in job action tonight, communication with families will be through social media, our website: https://t.co/Wue7IYuqbq , local media, and a message home to families of secondary students by 6:00 am. https://t.co/B6NGeU92Ya
— Durham District School Board (DDSB) (@DurhamDSB) December 3, 2019
REMINDER: Unless the OSSTF province-wide, one-day strike is averted, all UGDSB secondary and elementary schools will be closed tomorrow (December 4). For on-going labour updates, visit https://t.co/1N8rjNWIpa pic.twitter.com/5g6TpC6iL9
— Upper Grand DSB (@ugdsb) December 3, 2019
JUST ANNOUNCED: @OSSTF has confirmed a one-day strike on Wednesday, December 4 will take place. We can now confirm all #WRDSB secondary and elementary schools will be closed to students due to the withdrawal of services.
Schools will reopen for students on December 5. pic.twitter.com/6UioApV332
— Waterloo Region DSB (@wrdsb) December 4, 2019
Looking for the latest labour updates? Visit https://t.co/R2xR6nN04v and click the Labour Update button for the most up-to-date information. Any urgent announcements will be sent to #TVDSB school communities via School Messenger. pic.twitter.com/3BD6EZbr90
— Thames Valley DSB (@TVDSB) December 3, 2019
Labour Update: OSSTF has indicated that they will provide an update on negotiations tonight at midnight. https://t.co/9PIEId7STl
— OCDSB (@OCDSB) December 4, 2019
Due to one-day strike by OSSTF, all secondary schools in LDSB will be closed to all secondary students on Wednesday, Dec. 4 unless a central agreement can be reached. Intermediate & elementary schools remain open. Read more https://t.co/ViqqmLrXmR pic.twitter.com/8kFAmbhZFf
— Limestone District School Board (@LimestoneDSB) December 3, 2019
**NOTICE** Parents, guardians, caregivers: please see the letter from Sean Monteith, Director of Education, about the one-day strike tomorrow December 4/19 by OSSTF members https://t.co/121PDDzoIt
Link to page with more info: https://t.co/HgkPg1xdDQ pic.twitter.com/CptV4KUsC0
— Hast. and Pr. Ed.DSB (@HPEschools) December 3, 2019
KPR parents: all secondary schools will be CLOSED on Wednesday, December 4, due to province-wide withdrawal of service by secondary teachers. Latest update here https://t.co/IlHNshHfO9
— KPRDSB (@kprschools) December 4, 2019
All #GECDSB schools will be closed to students and student transportation will be cancelled on Wed. Dec. 4, because of a legal, one day strike by members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).
— GECDSB PR (@gecdsbpro) December 4, 2019
Due to a province-wide one day strike by the OSSTF, all schools will be closed to students on Wednesday, December 4. All schools will re-open as per normal practice on Thursday, December 5. More info https://t.co/oPtb4GeWnn #LPStb #tbay
— Lakehead Pub Schools (@LakeheadSchools) December 4, 2019
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