It was a little less than two months ago that a school shut down was avoided when CUPE job action was threatened as the staff representatives and the Province finally settled their contract dispute with hours left in the negotiations. Sadly, this was not the case with negotiations between Education Minister Stephen Lecce, the Province and OSSTF.
So what happened? With contract negotiations still under way, and not much progress being made, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) both announced work-to-rule job action would begin on November 26th, 2019. But for OSSTF this escalated quickly, and on November 28th it was announced a single-day strike would take place on December 4th, 2019 if no contract had been negotiated. As time ticked down it became obvious that no contract would be settled upon, especially as the Provincial representatives failed to come to the table on Tuesday, Dec 3rd.
Today all Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB) secondary schools will be closed to students on December 4. All secondary schools will re-open to students on December 5 following the one-day strike by the OSSTF. All GEDSB elementary schools remain open today.
But for the Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Catholic District School Board (BHNCDSB), this one-day walkout will involve all support staff as well as secondary school teachers. A one-day walkout means that: Cleaners, Clerical Staff, Child and Youth Workers, Caretakers, Early Childhood Educators, Educational Assistants, Information Technology Staff, Library Resource Technician, Maintenance Workers will also not be at work. So as a result both elementary and secondary schools within the BHNCDSB will be closed for the sake of child safety and well-being.
Once this single day strike ends it will likely not be the end of the dispute, as there is still a negotiation to be had. So what are the sticking points in this discussion?
Issues of contention appear to be:
- Class Size – The Province wants to increase classes sizes to 25, up from 22, the Teachers want to keep class sizes as they are.
- Mandatory Online Course – The Province wishes to institute 2 mandatory e-learning credits, Teachers want a comprehensive study on the matter before implementation.
- Funding for Special Education, Education Workers, and Programming Supports – Teachers want a commitment to restore a baseline for this funding and ensure a minimum of workers.
- Compensation – Province wants a 1% maximum yearly increase, Teachers want it tied to inflation.
The union has not had an agreement with the Province since August, and this job action was intended to increase pressure to see it happen, the Minister for Education for the Province, Lecce asked the union to call off the strike and said he’s proposing the same type of mediation that saw the Ontario government come to a contract agreement with CUPE education workers in October.