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Talks resume Monday between province, public high school teachers

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 16th, 2019

Talks between the province and the union representing public high school teachers are set to resume Monday, in the hopes of avoiding another one-day strike set for Wednesday.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) said teachers and education workers at 10 provincial school boards will take part in a full withdrawal of services.

Among the GTA area school boards affected are public high schools in York Region and Halton. Schools in those regions were closed during the last one-day walkout back on Dec. 4.

While the York Catholic District School Board is being targeted by the OSSTF job action, its members include psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and behavioural specialists and not teachers who are part of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. The board said schools will be open on Dec. 18 as usual.

The Toronto District School Board, which has been the target of the last two one-day walkouts, will not be involved this time.

Meanwhile, the province’s four major teachers’ unions launched charter challenges against a recent law capping wage increases for public sector workers.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said compensation is a key issue at the table, with high school teachers asking for a roughly two per cent increase and the government offering one per cent, as per the legislation.

The teachers have been without a contract since their last deal with the government expired at the end of August, along with contracts with all public education staff in the province. The government has inked deals with two unions representing education workers, but remains at odds with the major teachers’ unions.

The government announced in the spring that it was increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 over four years and requiring four online credits to graduate. In recent weeks, it has offered a class-size increase to 25 instead, and dropped the e-learning requirement to two courses.

But the teachers don’t want any mandatory online courses or any class size increases. They note that the government’s offer of increasing class sizes to the lower target of 25 would also mean local class size limits are removed, essentially allowing the province to see the number of students per class climb indefinitely.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) said teachers and education workers at 10 provincial school boards will take part in a full withdrawal of services.

Among the GTA area school boards affected are public high schools in York Region and Halton. Schools in those regions were closed during the last one-day walkout back on Dec. 4.

While the York Catholic District School Board is being targeted by the OSSTF job action, its members include psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and behavioural specialists and not teachers who are part of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. The board said schools will be open on Dec. 18 as usual.

The Toronto District School Board, which has been the target of the last two one-day walkouts, will not be involved this time.

Meanwhile, the province’s four major teachers’ unions launched charter challenges against a recent law capping wage increases for public sector workers.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said compensation is a key issue at the table, with high school teachers asking for a roughly two per cent increase and the government offering one per cent, as per the legislation.

The teachers have been without a contract since their last deal with the government expired at the end of August, along with contracts with all public education staff in the province. The government has inked deals with two unions representing education workers, but remains at odds with the major teachers’ unions.

The government announced in the spring that it was increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 over four years and requiring four online credits to graduate. In recent weeks, it has offered a class-size increase to 25 instead, and dropped the e-learning requirement to two courses.

But the teachers don’t want any mandatory online courses or any class size increases. They note that the government’s offer of increasing class sizes to the lower target of 25 would also mean local class size limits are removed, essentially allowing the province to see the number of students per class climb indefinitely.

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