Thousands of students were out of class Tuesday as all Ontario’s Catholic teachers hit the picket lines, as well as high school and elementary teachers in select boards.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association is holding its second provincewide strike after holding contract talks with the government on Monday, but no deal was reached and no further dates for talks are scheduled.
Meanwhile elementary teachers will engage in their second day of ramped up rotating strikes, hitting more school boards per day than they did during the job actions they held over the past two weeks.
The escalation comes after three long days of renewed contract talks between the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the province broke off late Friday.
ETFO targeted the Avon Maitland, Durham, Hastings-Prince Edward, Lambton Kent, Peel, Rainbow, Thames Valley and Upper Grand school boards Tuesday, as well as Campbell Children’s School Authority, and is planning a provincewide strike on Thursday.
High school teachers were holding strikes at the Lakehead, Lambton Kent, Thames Valley, Waterloo Region, York Region, Halton and Kawartha Pine Ridge school boards.
All four major teachers’ unions have been without contracts since Aug. 31, and are all engaged in some form of job action.
Unions are asking for wage increases of around two per cent to keep up with inflation, but the government passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.
Teachers’ unions, particularly the three representing secondary teachers, are opposed to class size increases and mandatory e-learning requirements imposed by the government. The Tories announced last March that average secondary school class sizes would jump from 22 to 28 and four e-learning courses would be mandatory for graduation.
The province has since scaled back those increases, to an average class size of 25 and two e-learning courses, but the unions say that’s not good enough.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called Tuesday for Education Minister Stephen Lecce to be fired.
“We need a new minister to be put in place with a new mandate to get back to the bargaining table with the cuts off the table so that a deal can be struck,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Premier Doug Ford said Lecce would not be replaced.
Lecce was promoted to education minister during a June cabinet shuffle that also saw the demotion of previous minister Lisa Thompson. The class size increases and mandatory e-learning requirements were announced during Thompson’s term.