February 23, 2020

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) – a union representing 60,000 teachers across Ontario – has announced that its workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike.

The union said in a press release Thursday that it would begin a work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday, in conjunction with “information pickets” after school and during lunch periods, but said the action would not affect students in the classroom.

The announcement comes amid stalling negotiations with the province after contracts expired at the end of August.

The OSSTF has cited education cuts and increased class sizes as sticking points in the bargaining process.

Teachers’ unions also criticized the provincial government’s passing of Bill 124 earlier this month. The bill limits the rise of public sector salaries to one per cent annually, and would apply to any new teachers’ contracts.

“Our members are committed to defending the quality of education in Ontario against a government that is determined to undermine it, and they are absolutely prepared to defend their ability to provide the best possible learning environment for the students they work with,” OSSTF President Harvey Bischof said in a press conference Monday.

OSSTF President Harvey Bischof announces the results of a strike vote at a press conference on Monday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Screengrab via OSSTF)

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said in a statement that the province is open to mediation, and that his government wants to keep students in the classroom.

Lecce also said in a statement Thursday that the number of credits required to be taken online would be reduced to two, from the proposed four. Teachers’ unions had previously criticized the online credit requirements.

Both sides have accused the other of bargaining in bad faith.

Two other unions representing teachers in Ontario are also taking steps toward job action.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario is also set to start a work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday, and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) made a move toward a walkout this week, requesting conciliation with the province – which is required before a strike can be held.

OECTA passed a strike vote last week but is not yet in legal strike position.

Education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees – whose contract expired at the same time as the OSSTF – reached an agreement with the province last month, and avoided job action. The union had voted in favour of a strike earlier this year.

This story, initially published on Nov. 19, was updated on Nov. 22 to reflect the latest developments.

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