Hamilton teachers inch closer to a strike

Local public high school teachers are hoping for a no-board report today, which is a step closer to a potential strike.

High school teachers ask for no-board report

Local public high school teachers are hoping for a no-board report Tuesday, which is a step closer to a potential strike.

The teachers bargaining unit of the Hamilton Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) will meet with a conciliator Tuesday, who they hope will file a no-board report.

If granted, the teachers could be in a legal strike position in as few as 17 days.

Chantal Mancini, president of the local teachers bargaining unit, said she didn't want to speculate on what might happen after that.

"Our priority is still to get local deals," she said.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is waiting to see if the report is issued and will deal with what happens next, board chair Tim Simmons said.

"Until we see what the Ministry of Labour determines, all we can do is focus on classroom instruction, keep it business as usual and focus on student achievement," he said.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers Federation has also asked for a conciliator. It filed on Oct. 19 but hasn't met with the board and conciliator yet, president Lisa Hammond said.

"We're continuing to bargain and we'll be trying to get that meeting as soon as possible."

Teachers unions and the Ministry of Education reached an impasse earlier this year as the government pushed for a framework deal. Main issues included a two-year wage freeze, an end to grid movement and a cut in annual sick days from 10 to 20.

While the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) signed the framework agreement, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario and OSSTF declined. The province then passed Bill 115, giving it the ability to intervene in the event of a strike.

Public elementary and secondary teachers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike. Some local teachers continue to decline involvement in extracurricular activities, a decision they make for themselves, Hammond said.

"We are not in a legal strike position," she said. "Anything teachers are doing now is their choice."

Teachers are also writing less than parents might be used to seeing on progress reports. The amount they are writing coincides with ministry guidelines, she said.

Unions and boards have a deadline of Dec. 31 to reach deals.

Negotiations also continue with local Catholic elementary and secondary teachers.

"We're in the beginning stages with the Catholic board in Hamilton," said Sergio Cacoilo, president of the OECTA Hamilton Secondary unit. Meetings are planned for Oct. 31, Nov. 15 and Dec. 12.

"I'm cautiously optimistic because we haven't had our first meeting."