An overwhelming majority of teachers in Ontario’s Catholic school system say they are willing to strike if a deal with the Progressive Conservative government cannot be reached.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) announced that 97.1 per cent of its members voted to authorize strike action.

“The message we have sent to the government is loud and clear: Catholic teachers will not accept any agreement that would be detrimental to learning and working conditions in our schools,” said Liz Stuart, president of OECTA.

While the strike vote allows the union to put more pressure on the government at the negotiating table, OECTA stresses that it is not yet in a legal strike position.

In a statement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said his bargaining team remains “unequivocal in our determination to land deals with our labour partners” and avoid job action.

“While our Government has been a reasonable force and student-focused at the bargaining table – focused on keeping kids in class – OECTA is escalating at a time parents want us to focus on getting a deal that provides predictability for families.” Lecce said in a statement.

OECTA joins other education sector unions in inching closer towards a strike.

Both the Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) have asked for a conciliator to be brought in to bridge the gap with the government.

High school teachers will be in a legal position to strike on Monday, however they have not yet filed the required five-day notice necessary for the action.

Elementary school teachers will be in a legal strike position as of Nov. 25.

One of the major sticking points for unions is the recently passed Bill 124, which legislates a wage increase cap of one per cent on all public sector unions. The move flies in the face of ETFO and OSSTF’s request for a cost of living increase of around two per cent per year.

The unions call the law unconstitutional and have vowed to take the government to court.