SOUTH DUNDAS – Secondary school students attending Upper Canada District School Board schools may get one day off from school next week. The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation announced that the UCDSB would be one of 16 school boards hit by the latest one day rotating strike action, planned for January 15th.
The union has been at a negotiating stalemate with the Ontario government since last fall. Members began a six-day work-to-rule campaign on November 26th. UCDSB schools were struck in a province-wide one day strike on December 4th, but have not seen any other closures. Many schools elsewhere in the province have been hit with further one day strikes.
UCDSB schools in the region including Seaway District High School, North Dundas District High School, and South Grenville District High School will all be affected.
During the December 4th walk out, Grade 7-8 students going to UCDSB Grade 7-12 schools were unaffected and able attend classes while Grade 9-12 students stayed home. The UCDSB has not announced if that protocol will be followed for the possible January 15th action but board chair John McAllister told The Leader he assumed the same protocol would be followed.
Schools with the Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien and the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario will also have service interuptions as the OSSTF represents non-teaching support workers at those two boards.
“The Minister of Education continues to peddle the false narrative that this dispute is about compensation,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof. “And yet, when we offered to call off our most recent job action in exchange for class size and staffing guarantees – issues entirely unrelated to compensation – the Ford government chose to reject that offer rather than keep students in classrooms.”
Bischof said that the union has extended the same offer it had before with regard to job action.
“If the government agrees to return to, and maintain, the class size ratios and staffing levels that were in place just a year ago, we will call off our January 15 job action, and continue to bargain in good faith to resolve the many other outstanding issues,” he said. “It’s time for [the minister] to recognize that agreements are reached through focused discussion at the bargaining table, not through hyperbolic claims at press conferences.”
“For the fifth time, OSSTF union leaders have directed their members to not show up to class. These union leaders will forcefully advocate for the interests of their members – from higher wages to enhanced entitlements – however, they ought not oppose the academic aspirations of our students,” said Education minister Stephen Leece. “Students should be in class. It is most concerning that teacher unions’ leaders disagree and continue to impede learning for the next generation. Our government is focused on landing deals that keep students in class so that we end the frustrating experience families face due to predictable union escalation. This continued strike action is unfair to students and their families.”
The job action followed an announcement by the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario that that union would increase its already active work-to-rule campaign beginning January 14th. If no contract is reached by January 20th, ETFO will begin one day rotating strike action across the province.
Meanwhile the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association will start work-to-rule action beginning January 13th.
All four major unions representing teachers and many non-teaching support staff are in a strike position. The unions have been without a contract since August 30, 2019.