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Peel high school teachers set strike date

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Teachers on picket line Durham school board headquarters in Whitby Monday, April 20, 2015. (Maryam Shah/Toronto Sun)

Teachers on picket line Durham school board headquarters in Whitby Monday, April 20, 2015. (Maryam Shah/Toronto Sun)

Ontario public high school students are “pawns” in a battle between their teachers’ union and the provincial government, the chair of one board facing a strike says.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has notified the Peel District School Board that teachers will be off the job as of May 4 if a collective agreement is not reached.

Durham Region public secondary school teachers have been out on strike since Monday, and job action is pending at other boards in the province.

Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel board, said in a statement Tuesday that local negotiations had been progressing, but the OSSTF was clearly intent on sending a message to the Kathleen Wynne government that it’s unhappy with bargaining in general.

“The reality is that this is a provincial strategy with a harshly negative local impact for our students,” McDougald said. “Our students are being used by OSSTF provincial as pawns in their strategy. That is not fair. That is not right.”

Teacher collective bargaining occurs on two levels in Ontario — the provincial government bargains major financial costs such as salary and benefits while school boards address local issues.

The Wynne government has frozen the overall budget for teacher compensation, and the OSSTF has expressed concerns about clawbacks.

Education Minister Liz Sandals continued to insist Tuesday that the strikes are not a shot over her bow.

“In each case these are local strikes,” Sandals said. “And the law which now governs collective bargaining is quite clear — that local strikes are on local issues.

“So what I can take responsibility for is the central table at which the province is an active participant and at the central table we continue to negotiate,” she said.

Sandals has said there appears no obvious reason for the strikes.

OSSTF District 19 (Peel) president Mike Bettiol said in a statement their members have shown great patience despite a slow pace of bargaining since collective agreements expired last August.

“Their work both in and outside of the classroom becomes more demanding all the time, but the employer has refused to address their concerns in any meaningful way at the bargaining table,” he said. “The school board’s approach to bargaining will have to change dramatically if they want to avoid a full withdrawal of services.”

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca

 


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