Queen’s Park Toronto (BlackburnNews.com file photo by Sue Storr)
By Scott KitchingNovember 18, 2019 10:[email protected]
Another teachers union has decided it is willing to strike to get a fair contract.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation announced the results of its strike vote on Monday. According to OSSTF President Harvey Bischof, 92 per cent of OSSTF members who are education workers voted in favour of giving the union a strike mandate. The figure was 95.5 per cent for OSSTF members who are teachers.
“This is a powerful mandate from our members and it sends a compelling message,” Bischof said at a news conference on Monday afternoon. “Our members are committed to defending the quality of education in Ontario against a government that is determined to undermine it. They are absolutely prepared to defend their ability to provide the best possible learning environment for the students they work with.”
The OSSTF is the latest teachers union to indicate its willingness to hit the picket lines.
Last week, the union that represents public elementary school teachers, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, said it would start a work-to-rule campaign on November 26. ETFO President Sam Hammond said the union intended to turn up the heat on provincial negotiators without affecting students in the classroom.
ETFO held strike votes across the province during September and October. It said 98 per cent of its members voted in favour of strike action if necessary to back demands made by ETFO at the bargaining table.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Federation also released the results of strike votes earlier this month and said 97.1 per cent of its members were ready to walk off the job too.
“Catholic teachers will not accept any agreement that would be detrimental to the learning and working conditions in our schools,” said OECTA President Liz Stuart last Wednesday.
The Catholic teachers union is not yet in a legal strike position and talks continued last Thursday and Friday.
The release of the OSSTF strike vote results came on the same day Education Minister Stephen Lecce called for mediation in hopes of reaching deals with education unions and avoiding work stoppages.
“My goal, since day one, has been to reach negotiated settlements with our education partners, with the intention of keeping Ontario’s students in the classroom,” said Lecce in a release Monday morning. “While our government has been a reasonable force and student-focused at the bargaining table, the labour unions continue to take escalating steps toward strike action.”
The head of the Ontario Public School Boards Association responded in a brief statement.
“OPSBA welcomes the promotion of positive dialogue through voluntary mediation to help reach settlements, and continues to be available at the central bargaining table, actively participating in the bargaining process with our education partners,” wrote OPSBA President Cathy Abraham.
The unions have identified lists of issues they want to be resolved, including class sizes, more supports in the classroom for special education students, addressing the escalating rate of violence in schools, and protecting full-day kindergarten.
The release from Lecce suggests tentative agreements with the education unions may not be possible without the intervention of a third-party.
“I believe this is the right step, as mediation involves an independent third party to assist the unions, trustee associations, and the government in reaching settlements,” read Lecce’s statement.
*with files from Adelle Loiselle