Thursday, December 12, 2019

One day strike set for Wednesday, high schools to be closed

As the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation prepares to strike on Wednesday, December 4, high schools across the region are set to close for the day.

“We served notice to the Government and School Board Associations that we will engage in a one day, full withdrawal of services on Wednesday, December 4,” Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation officials said in a press release on Thuraday.

“The Minister of Education and his bargaining teams at both the education worker and teacher/occasional teacher central tables continue to avoid meaningful progress on the issues that are crucial to a high quality learning environment for our students, and fair working conditions for our members.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, issued a statement regarding the decision.

“Strikes hurt kids,” Lecce said.

“Our Government has been clear, we want deals that keep students in class. For teacher unions to leave the table, to turn their back on our children, and to escalate to the point of compromising their education, is deeply troubling for parents and our Government.”

Lecce added: “Our Government has demonstrated consistently it is reasonable and student-centric by making major moves that have not been matched or reciprocated by the teachers’ unions. In fact, on the days we made reasonable offers – reducing class room sizes from 28 to 25 and reducing online learning courses from four to two – the unions decided to escalate. This is wrong, and our students deserve better.”

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation officials said the Minister has also undermined negotiations through press conferences at which he has publicly announced bargaining positions that have not been presented by his negotiating teams at the table.

“He publicly claims that compensation is the only issue preventing a deal, yet his bargaining team has simply refused to address our proposals on crucial issues including class size, e-learning and job security for our members,” Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation officials said.

“We are now into the eighth month of the bargaining process. Our members, provided a decisive mandate to our central bargaining teams through your strong strike vote earlier this month. In light of the government’s refusal to engage in meaningful bargaining, it is time to send a clear message that the teachers and education workers of OSSTF/FEESO are ready to defend Ontario’s publicly-funded education system.”

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation officials said the job action they began earlier last week – the information pickets and the limited withdrawal of administrative services – was designed to draw attention to their issues while minimizing disruption to student learning.

“This one-day, full withdrawal of services will cause a short-term disruption for our students, but if we allow this government to continue down the path it is on, students will suffer the negative impacts for years to come,” Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation officials said.

Lecce said he is calling on the OSSTF to remain at the bargaining table, with third-party, independent mediation, up until the deadline.

“All parties that are truly committed to the success of our children will consider every tool available to avoid strikes which hurt our students,” Lecce said.

“Our aim, as was the case with CUPE, is to get a deal that provides continuity for parents, and educational stability for students. Our government will never leave the table and continue to remain available 24/7 to reach a deal that keeps students in class.”

Lambton-Kent District School Board officials said secondary school across the board will be closed on Wednesday, in the event of a strike.

“If a settlement is not reached and the one-day, full strike proceeds, secondary schools will be closed to students on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, and will reopen to students on Thursday, December 5, 2019,” public school board officials said.

“Please continue to check the LKDSB website up to and including Wednesday morning for updates regarding whether secondary schools will be closed to students on Wednesday, December 4.”

LKDSB officials added: Student safety is the top priority for the LKDSB. In our schools and across our system, OSSTF represents all secondary school teachers. If the one-day, full strike proceeds, OSSTF staff will not report to work and the LKDSB will not be able to safely operate our secondary schools.”

The LKDSB is hopeful a fair agreement can be reached, and the full strike action will be avoided, public school board officials stated.

“In anticipation of the potential full strike action, all LKSSAA student athletic activities scheduled for Wednesday, December 4 have been cancelled and will be rescheduled,” public school board officials stated.

“Schools will communicate information to students and parents/guardians about the rescheduled dates. All elementary schools will be open to students on Wednesday, December 4, 2019.”

This work action does not impact the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

“You have probably read or heard media reports about labour action by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) regarding a one-day legal strike at the province’s public high schools,” Deb Crawford, director of education, said on social media.

“I want to clarify for you that OSSTF represents secondary teachers in public high schools – our Catholic schools are not affected and all Catholic schools will remain open as usual. Busing is not affected.”

Crawford added: “At present, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) and the Ontario government are continuing a dialogue aimed at achieving a collective agreement for Catholic teachers. We are hopeful for a negotiated settlement as these talks continue.”

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