Once again, the spectre of a school strike looms large on Ontario’s political landscape. The union representing thousands of Ontario’s public high school teachers announced it will hold strike votes in the coming weeks.
They quickly blame the PC government for failing to address key issues in contract talks.
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation president Harvey Bischof said voting will begin October 22 and finish November 15.
Bischof said more bargaining dates are scheduled later this month and in early November but noted the strike vote doesn’t necessarily mean teachers will walk off the job.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Only last week the provincial government averted a likely province-wide school closure at the eleventh hour after it reached a hasty deal with CUPE, which represents 55,000 education workers, after the union gave a strike notice. Under the tentative agreement, CUPE agreed to a one per cent wage increase and gained millions in funding to restore as many as 1,500 jobs cut by the Tories.
Meanwhile Finance Minister Rod Phillips has signalled for now that the province plans to stick to its plan to cap public sector wage increases as it enters key contract talks with teachers.
It is also clear that the union is in no mood to accept the government’s wage increase cap and has proposed a “cost-of-living adjustment” based on a formula linked to the Consumer Price Index. The current rate of that increase would come in around two per cent but that could change if the economy sputters, the union argues.
Earlier this year, the government ordered school boards to start increasing class sizes, moving to an average for high school from 22 to 28 students over four years. Class sizes for grades 4 to 8 will increase by one student per classroom, from 23 to 24.
Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer has said the move would see 10,000 fewer teachers in the public school system over the next five years.
Whether or not a softer Doug Ford will be able to withstand the considerable pressure to avert the possibility of a strike by striking a deal instead is up in the air. -CINEWS