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Catholic teachers to stage province-wide strike Mar. 5

Last Updated Feb 27, 2020 at 8:06 pm EDT

Teachers from across Ontario protest at Queen's Park amid a province-wide strike on Feb. 21, 2020. CITYNEWS/David Piedra

Ontario’s 45,000 Catholic elementary and high school teachers are set to hit the picket lines next week.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association has announced it will stage a province-wide walkout on March 5th.

Next Thursday’s strike will mark the fourth province-wide walkout for the union.

The most recent one-day strike saw Catholic teachers join elementary, high school and French-language educators in a provincewide walkout, the largest such job action in more than 20 years.

The union had previously suspended rotating strikes as a sign of good faith when negotiations with the Ford government resumed last week, but those talks broke off without a deal being reached.

OECTA president Liz Stuart accused provincial government negotiators of holding firm in their agenda to take resources out of the classroom.

“Instead of coming to the table with a plan to reach an agreement, the government continued to insist on its deep, permanent cuts,” Stuart said in a statement. “All the while, the Minister of Education has continued his attempts to mislead the public, by making baseless accusations against Catholic teachers and our Association, and by peddling the inaccurate claim that enhancements to our benefits plan is the sticking point in bargaining.”

“Our Association remains committed to the goal of reaching a fair agreement at the bargaining table.
However, we cannot tolerate the Ford government’s penchant for misinformation and mistruth, nor its
efforts to dismantle publicly funded education.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the two-per-cent raise the teachers are seeking is the biggest sticking point in current contract talks.

“Yet again, we have seen obstruction to a deal because of insistence by union on enhancements to already generous benefit package,” he said in a statement. “Students deserve to be in class. That is why I am calling on OECTA to return to table to get a deal.”

Ontario high school teachers are set to stage a one-day walkout at a number of school boards on Friday including Durham, Hamilton-Wentworth and Ottawa-Carleton. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has repeatedly voiced concerns with the government’s planned increases to class sizes and new mandatory e-learning requirements.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has said its key issues include guaranteeing the future of full-day kindergarten, securing more funding to hire special education teachers, and maintaining seniority hiring rules.

The union representing Ontario’s French-language teachers, meanwhile, is to return to the bargaining table with the government on Friday.

All four unions have been negotiating new collective agreements with the province since September.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report