Local high school students say the latest development in ongoing teacher negotiations has gone too far and they hope this break down in talks doesn’t lead to a walk-out.  Students at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute say field trips and after school programs have already been cancelled.

“I think it should just be settled as soon as possible with the least amount of impact on the students and staff”, says grade 11 student Callan Langen.

“I’m in the robotics club right now and every now and again our coach has to say, ‘tonight is cancelled because all the other teachers are leaving and if I don’t leave I’m basically quitting the union”, says Lucas Valvassori.

Earlier today, the union representing Ontario’s high school teachers suspended all talks with school boards until further notice.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation says it’s making the move because the government refused to give approval to a number of locally bargained deals.

Superintendant of Human Resources with the Waterloo District School Board, Mark Schinkel, says the decision by the union came as a surprise, “it is news that we weren’t expecting but we’re responding to it as information becomes available.”

Schinkel says it’s still too early to tell if this is a negotiation tactic, whether talks will re-vitalize in the near future or what the effect will be on local schools.

“At this point it will be very difficult to speculate what the impact might be in terms of any changes in our schools.”

Local union branches have been instructed not to comment on the move to suspend talks.

This morning, Education Minister Laurel Broten said the province wants to keep talking.  “We will continue to negotiate until we reach agreements or we will use the tools available to us under the Putting Students First Act.”

The Act, otherwise known as Bill 115, has been the focus of the debate between the unions representing teachers and the provincial government.  The unions argue the bill erodes union bargaining power.  The province says it is needed to help keep salaries in check while balancing the budget.

The OSSTF and bargaining leaders are meeting next Monday to discuss and outline the union’s next steps.

Next Monday is also when some elementary schools are in a legal strike position.  However, here in Waterloo Region, elementary schools won’t be in a strike position until mid December.

Union representatives say they will give 72 hours notice before a strike happens.