News

Sandals calls on teacher union locals to explain strikes

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Teachers picket at Lo Ellen Park Secondary School in Sudbury on Monday April 27, 2015. (Gino Donato/Postmedia Network)

Teachers picket at Lo Ellen Park Secondary School in Sudbury on Monday April 27, 2015. (Gino Donato/Postmedia Network)

TORONTO - 

Ontario’s education minister called on teacher union locals Monday to explain why they’re on strike as Sudbury public high school students joined a growing number of kids out of class.

The local for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) in Sudbury walked out on negotiations, not representatives of the Rainbow District School Board, Liz Sandals said.

“It’s up to the union local to explain clearly what is the local issue on which they decided to have a strike,” Sandals said. “That’s the responsibility of the union local who made the decision to strike.”

OSSTF locals are now on strike in Sudbury, Peel and Durham, and Sandals said the law spells out clearly that local strikes must be based on local issues.

Teacher compensation negotiations take place on two levels, with most large issues such as salaries and benefits resolved at a central bargaining table with the provincial government and other issues dealt with by local school boards.

Harvey Bischof, OSSTF vice-president and chair of the local negotiations team in Sudbury, said in a statement Friday that the school board has been unwilling to bargain, to entertain counterproposals or seriously consider any of its priorities.

Sandals said she and Premier Kathleen Wynne have always acknowledged this would be a difficult round of talks, but they are committed to negotiating a new collective agreement with teachers.

The government is not prepared to fatten the compensation envelope for public sector workers, so any increase in one area such as wages would need to be offset by savings in other areas of the agreement, Sandals said.

PC education critic Garfield Dunlop said he’s spoken to a number of school boards, and the provincial government has left them no room to negotiate.

Sandals can’t pretend that this impasse has nothing to do with her or her government, he said.

“They’re stonewalled,” Dunlop said. “We’ve got 29,000 boys and girls are out of the classes right now in Ontario. At this point, if this continues on, they risk losing their school year or certainly those that are graduating would have a real problem in college or university.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it’s “worrisome” that the provincial government could be seeking to remove caps on school class sizes.

“So we’ve made gains in education apparently that Kathleen Wynne is happy to see washed away here in 2015,” Horwath said.

In addition to increasing strikes by OSSTF, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is in a legal strike position as of May 10 and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has a resounding strike mandate.

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca


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