Ontario public high school teachers take part in one-day strike
Published Wednesday, December 4, 2019 12:16AM EST Last Updated Wednesday, December 4, 2019 6:41PM EST
KITCHENER -- High school teacher and education workers have taken action and left schools empty for one day.
The strike on Wednesday comes after the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and provincial government failed to reach a deal by midnight on Tuesday.
Teachers and workers were out to the streets with picket signs across Waterloo Region.
A total of 105, elemetary schools and 16 high schools were closed in the region, with roughly 64,000 students affected.
One protestor says they're putting the interest of the kids first.
"We value [the kids] more than anything in the working conditons we've been able to have in the past with what we can offer them," he said. "Unfortunately the decision of the conservative government have recently put those things in jeopardy."
Harry Kemperman, a teacher at Bluevale Collegiate Institute for 27 years, says they are fighting to keep class sizes down and quality of education up.
"It's very much about the learning environment that we're trying to protect for our kids," he said. "For the class size perception, we've already seen the real implications that has like the trickle down to lost courses, lost programming, lost staff, and loss of supports."
Teachers like Nanci Henderson of Elmira District Secondary School are also fighting against mandatory online classes.
"Not all students learn well in an online environment," she said. "There's no face to face. It's pretty hard to have a relationship with somebody when they're not actually in front of you."
OSSTF says education workers and teachers will be back in schools on Thursday and the federation remains ready to negotiate.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce called on OSSTF on Tuesday evening to cancel their plans for a walkout.
“It is irresponsible and it is unfair to keep parents and students in the dark about knowing if school will be open or not”, Lecce added.
Lecce asked OSSTF to consider independent, third-party mediation to resolve the dispute, adding that the government is open to examining innovative solutions to avoid a strike.
On Wednesday morning he said that the Ontario high school teachers are some of the highest paid in the country.
"They are well-paid and we value their contribution to public service," said Lecce. "At the end of the day we're offering a reasonable and constructive approach."
Kemperman adds that the fight isn't about wages whatsoever.
"It's been several days of no movement on any of the issues that we're trying to get resolved," he said.
OSSTF has been in talks with the Progressive Conservative government for six days straight, desperately trying to find common ground.
But the stalemate ran right into the midnight deadline, with the union telling parents to be ready for a one-day strike on Wednesday.
“We’ll be back in class on Thursday, providing the services and supports that we do“, said OSSTF President Harvey Bischof late Tuesday evening.
“While we sympathize, absolutely, with students and parents who are facing disruption and anxiety, a single-day strike doesn’t come close to the kind of disruption that this government will wreak on the education system if they are allowed to go forward with their destructive proposals”, Bischof added.
But while the name may imply that only secondary schools will be affected, a number of non-teaching staff members are represented by the union.
Any of the following staff members could be included in the strike:
- Clerical Staff
- Child and Youth Workers
- Early Childhood Educators
- Educational Assistants
- Information Technology Staff
- Library Resource Technician
- Maintenance Workers
As a result, a number of boards were closed, including public elementary schools as well as a number of Catholic School Boards.
Here is a list of some of the school boards that were affected.
- Avon Maitland District School Board – Elementary schools to close. Some child care providers in schools may continue
- Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic School Board – Elementary and secondary schools to close, child care providers in schools to close
- Conseil Scolaire Catholique Mon Avenir – Elementary and secondary schools to close
- Conseil Scolaire Viamonde – Elementary and secondary schools to close
- Grand Erie District School Board – Secondary schools to close
- Upper Grand District School Board – Elementary schools closed- third party child care operators will remain open. Some Before and/or After School Programs may be operating and each operator will communicate directly with families.
- Wellington Catholic School Board – Both elementary and senior schools to close.
- Waterloo Region District School board – elementary and senior schools to closed. This includes ALL before and after school childcare programs, extended day childcare programs, Early ON Centres and third-party operated childcare centres.
For the most up to date information about your local school board, visit your board's website.
The OSSTF represents more than 60,000 public high school teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, and school support staff.
The federation adds that they'll give five days notice if there are plans for additional strike action.