Province and catholic board teachers' union will return to bargaining table Monday
TORONTO -- The province and the union representing catholic board teachers will return to the bargaining table on Monday, however a one-day strike planned for the next day will still go ahead.
Talks between the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the province broke down just hours into their last negotiating session on Jan. 9 and had not resumed despite weeks of escalating job action.
The union, however, has now confirmed that they will meet with the province's negotiating team on Monday.
The announcement comes amid revived talks between the province and the union representing secular board elementary school teachers, which have been ongoing for the last two days.
“We are pleased to be getting back to negotiations. However, it remains to be seen how serious the discussions will be,” OECTA President Liz Stuart said in a statement provided to CP24. “We would like nothing more than to focus on reaching an agreement but the government needs to understand that their proposed cuts simply cannot stay on the table.”
Secondary teachers to resume one day strikes
News of the resumption of talks comes just days after OECTA announced plans for its second province-wide walkout on Feb. 4. According to Stuart, the plan “at this point” is for that job action to go ahead.
Public high school teachers are also set to resume their rotating strikes next week after a pause to avoid interrupting exams.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation has announced that its members will walk off the job in nine boards on Feb. 4, including the York and Halton district school boards.
The job action comes on the same day as a one-day province-wide strike planned by OECTA and a rotating strike by public elementary school teachers in the Peel and Durham district school boards.
Public elementary school teachers also plan to hold a province-wide strike on Feb. 6.
“It has been over 20 years since all four unions have been in a position to take province-wide action and certainly we have had some disagreements along the way but I never felt with the governments that I have dealt with that they were trying deliberately to erode the quality of education and that is exactly what this government has set out to do,” OSSTF President Harvey Bischoff told CP24 on Thursday afternoon.
“If we allow this government to go ahead and continue to diminish the high quality education system that we have had in this province the damage that will be done to our future students will be far greater than what arises out of single days of action.”
The province resumed negotiations with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario on Wednesday but has not met with the OSSTF since early December.
Bischoff said that his union remains willing to negotiate and find “creative solutions” at the bargaining table but wants to see the government move away from its intention to raise class sizes and introduce mandatory E-learning in secondary schools.
He also said that the government’s insistence on capping any pay increases at one per cent remains a stumbling block.
“We are still very much in the position we were going back to Dec. 4 when we first took action. The government has not moved off its intention to eliminate thousands of teaching and education worker positions and they are still stuck on mandatory E-learning, an Alambama-style program that has no evidence it will be successful,” he said. “
What is it about the loss of positions, poor education quality and sub-inflationary compensation that this minister thinks would entice us to sign our names to this?”
While all four of the province’s teacher unions have cited cuts to the education system as a primary roadblock in negotiations, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said that unions are being disingenuous and are primarily motivated by compensation.
“Our message to the educators and to the parents is that if the case is that they need more investments in class and they want more support for students I agree and I urge them to turn to their union leadership who is making the case that additional dollars should actually go into compensation,” he told CP24 on Thursday afternoon.
“We need to continue to stay focused on expending more dollars in schools and not providing more dollars above the one per cent (increase) and $750 million that we are offering for compensation.”
The school boards affected by the Feb. 4 strike are as follows:
- Lakehead District School Board
- Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
- Lambton Kent District School Board
- Thames Valley District School Board
- Waterloo Region District School Board
- Waterloo Catholic District School Board
- York Region District School Board
- York Catholic District School Board
- Halton District School Board
- Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board