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Ontario secondary school teachers nearing strike vote as tensions mount

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As the union representing elementary teachers in Ontario prepares to hold a strike vote, secondary school teachers are being told to expect the same.

A bargaining memo sent to members by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and obtained by Global News says a strike vote could come as early as the fall.

“A strong strike mandate will demonstrate our unity and determination to achieve fair and favourable terms for our members and students,” the memo, dated Aug. 11, explained.

It comes as the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced plans on Monday to ballot its member for a mandate to strike. Votes are set to take place from September to October.

The elementary teaching union said its demands — ranging from improved compensation to smaller classrooms — had not been met by the Ford government.

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The union said the government had “refused to engage in any meaningful discussions” about its priorities. ETFO president Karen Brown said the union’s patient had “run out.”

All four major teachers’ unions have been in bargaining with the government and school boards since last summer, and now with just a few weeks before the start of a new school year, none have indicated they are close to a deal.

A government source told Global News teaching unions were offering fewer dates for negotiation than the government. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said his team was available “every day to negotiate a deal that keeps students in class and improves the outcomes of students.”

The mood among union officials, however, is bleak.

The OSSTF memo said government negotiators had “shown little interest in engaging in substantive negotiations” around conditions in schools. As a result, the memo said, “Very little progress has been made at either central table.”

Recent education regulations introduced by the Ford government have been another flashpoint. While the government argues unions were consulted and the changes were decided months ago, teaching unions say the move is in bad faith.

ETFO filed a complaint last week with the Ontario Labour Relations Board accusing the province of failing to act in good faith during bargaining because of new requirements for student early reading screenings the government announced this summer.

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ETFO argues that a memo requiring elementary school teachers to conduct mandatory early reading screenings twice a year for students in senior Kindergarten through Grade 2 violates good faith duties because early reading screening is a subject of central bargaining.

In its memo, OSSTF said any strike vote would be held online.

“It is well past time for this government to come to the table willing to conclude a deal to ensure students in Ontario can learn and grow in a world-renowned public education system,” it said.

Most Ontario students will return to classrooms in early September.

— with files from The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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