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Teachers to be in classroom this fall despite Ford government 'declaring war'

Last Updated Aug 15, 2019 at 12:33 pm EDT

A classroom sits empty. UNSPLASH/Rubén Rodriguez

The head of Ontario’s high school teachers’ union says his members will be in the classroom on the first day of school, despite not having a new contract by then.

However, Harvey Bischof says he’s not optimistic about this round of bargaining.

Contracts expire on Aug. 31, but the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation is going to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Aug. 22 to determine what issues should be bargained centrally, and what should be deal with at local tables.

Bischof says he doesn’t expect substantive talks to get underway until mid-to-late September, and would not speculate about possible future job action.

In a speech to the union’s leadership conference today, Bischof rallied members in what he calls a “fight” for public education.

“Let me be absolutely unequivocal: we will be at work on the first day of school,” said Bischof.

“The Ford government has declared war on one of the best education systems in the world. But we will go to the bargaining table with proposals that are good for Ontario’s education system and for the province’s economic future.”

He says that the school year will start with fewer teachers due to the provincial government increasing class sizes, which will mean fewer course offerings and extracurricular activities for students.

On the same day as the OSSTF gathering, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) released results of a poll which shows 61 per cent of Ontarians believe the government is going down the wrong path when it education.

The poll finds Ontarians are concerned about possible changes to the Full-Day Kindergarten program with 71 per cent saying a teacher and designated early childhood educator is important to the success of the program. Another 76 per cent believe a teacher needs to be in the classroom on a full-time basis when it comes to FDK.

“As educators, we continue to stand with parents and community organizations to defend Ontario’s world-renowned education system and stop the Ford Conservatives’ damaging cuts to public education,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond, who noted that only 16 per cent of those surveyed sided with the government when it comes to protecting the interests of students.

“As these results indicate, Ford is not governing ‘for the people’ as he purported in his election campaign. His government is more intent on offering tax breaks for corporations than investing in our students and their future.”