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High school teachers to walk out Dec. 11 in select locations

Last Updated Dec 6, 2019 at 7:06 pm EDT

Public high school teachers in Toronto are set to stage another one-day walkout next week as part of its ongoing job action against the Ford government.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) says teachers and education workers in selected locations across the province will take part in a one-day, full withdrawal of services on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

The Toronto District School Board, which is the biggest in the province, is among the nine English-language school boards targeted by the walkout along with schools in Barrie, Brantford, Belleville, Fort Frances, Lindsay and North Bay.

Students and teachers at English-language school boards in Peel region, and York regions, Ottawa, Durham, London, Waterloo or Hamilton will not be targeted by a full withdrawal of services.

Those school boards will hold information pickets in front of schools, at MPP’s offices, and in other locations throughout the province the union said in a statement.

Friday’s announcement triggers a five-day notice period, giving parents and school boards time to come up with alternative plans.

The TDSB says if the walkout takes place they will have no other option but to close all secondary schools, including Adult Day Schools and Night Schools, as there would not be sufficient supervision to ensure safety.

Union president Harvey Bischof said they have “no choice but to continue with our efforts.”

“We absolutely understand that our targeted job actions create a temporary disruption for the students and families affected,” said Bischof.

“By contrast, the (Premier) Doug Ford agenda, if it is allowed to be implemented, will create long-term disruption for students across the entire education system, and leave publicly funded education in Ontario deeply and permanently damaged.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce called the union’s move “unacceptable.”

“What it illustrates is a proof positive that if they don’t get a $1.5 billion increase in compensation, that they are going to escalate. I find that unacceptable after we’ve offered the second highest compensated teachers in the nation who make on average $92,000 – if they do not get another $750 million they will walk out on your kids,” said Lecce. “We stand with parents against escalation and I seriously hope that the unions will consider private mediation to avoid this needless escalation.”

Bischof said the government is still refusing to engage in serious discussions about mandatory e-learning, class size and staffing.

Lecce countered by saying the government has made major moves in those areas and that the union has not budged on anything.

As for the key issue of compensation, Lecce says the province is offering a one-per-cent annual wage increase while the union is asking for around two per cent, which he termed “an unreasonable request.”

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said Lecce could change the tone of talks by halting plans to increase class size and to mandate e-learning courses.

“The government needs to reverse all these cuts, get back to the table and get a deal,” she said.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said high school teachers clearly aren’t making the move lightly.

“Teachers will not sign off on a plan that pulls thousands of educators out of schools and drags Ontario down to the level of US states that replace teachers with mandatory e-learning,” he said in a statement.

The teachers, who have been without a contract since August, are already conducting a province-wide work-to-rule campaign which began back on Nov. 26.

The OSSTF has designated these nine English-language school boards for a full withdrawal of services on Dec. 11:

Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board (Brantford)
Grand Erie District School Board (Brantford)
Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (Belleville)
Near North District School Board (North Bay)
Rainy River District School Board (Fort Frances)
Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (Barrie) (The OSSTF represents this board’s educational assistants, maintenance staff, office staff and designated early childhood educators.)
Toronto District School Board (Toronto)
Trillium Lakelands District School Board (Lindsay)

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report