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Ontario English Catholic teachers to hold province-wide walkout next week
Protesters join a demonstration organized by the Teacher's Unions outside the Ontario Legislature, in Toronto, as four Teacher's Unions hold a province wide education strike, on Friday, February 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO -- Ontario English Catholic teachers will take part in a one-day province-wide walkout next week after negotiations with the government fell apart.
In a news release issued on Thursday, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) said that teachers will not be reporting to work or performing any of their duties on March 5.
Following a joint province-wide walkout with three other teachers’ unions last week, OECTA and the Ontario government returned to the table to continue negotiations. At that time the union suspended its planned rotating strike as a sign of good faith.
OECTA President Liz Stuart said that talks broke down on Monday.
“Instead of coming to the table with a plan to reach an agreement, the government continued to insist on its deep, permanent cuts,” Liz Stuart, the president of OECTA, said in a statement. “All the while, the minister of education has continued his attempts to mislead the public by making baseless accusations against Catholic teachers and our association.”
The decision comes after Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the union obstructed the bargaining progress by asking for enhancements to their members’ benefits, something Stuart says is an “inaccurate claim.”
While Lecce would not go into the details of what was on the table, he did say that the union representing high school teachers asked for a six per cent increase each year to members’ benefits, something he says is similar
The Ford government said they will not offer more than a one per cent annual increase to both salaries and benefits.
“Our Association remains committed to the goal of reaching a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” Stuart said. “However, we cannot tolerate the Ford government’s penchant for misinformation and mistruth, nor its efforts to dismantle publicly funded education.”
OECTA has filed a bad-faith bargaining complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and said that evidence from that complaint confirms that participants of the government’s public consultation on education rejected plans to increase class sizes.
“Catholic teachers understand the long-term consequences of this government’s regressive agenda, and we continue to demonstrate our willingness to stand up and make our voices heard. Parents and the public know that we are the last line of defence against the Ford government’s reckless education cuts,” Stuart said
Education Minister Stephen Lecce responded to the development saying that the strikes by teachers' unions have resulted in "millions of student days lost."
"This week, while in discussions with OECTA, we sought to get a deal that is in the best interests of our students through low class sizes, 100% investment in special education, and protecting full-day kindergarten," Lecce said in a statement issued Thursday evening.
"Yet again, we have seen obstruction to a deal because of an insistence by the union on enhancements to an already generous benefit package. Students deserve to be in class. That is why I am calling on OECTA to return to the table to get a deal.”
With files from the Canadian Press