Sudbury

Ontario's English public high school teachers counting down to one-day strike on Wednesday

Eric Laberge, the president of District 3 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said contract negotiations with the provincial government are causing a sense of unease for new teachers, many of whom have never been in a strike position before.

If negotiations with province stall, teachers expected to hit the picket lines Wednesday in one-day job action

Eric Laberge is the president of OSSTF District 3.

As the date for strike action approaches, Eric Laberge, the president of District 3 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said contract negotiations with the provincial government are causing a sense of unease for new teachers.

Many, Laberge said,  have never been in a strike position before.

Ontario's English public high school teachers and some elementary support staff are set to strike— a one day job action— in their push to reduce class sizes and eliminate mandatory online credits imposed by the provincial government.

"There are some teachers who are nervous because some of the new members that have come on board have never gone through something like that, so I can understand the trepidation," Laberge said.  

"Of course there are a large number of teachers and support staff who are full steam ahead in supporting the leadership and in applying pressure to the government and hoping to come to a negotiated settlement."

The last labour disruption was in 2015, a strike Laberge, then a high school teacher, took part in. 

"[During the 2015 strike] the morale was good," he said. "I believe we were out for nearly five weeks and we took the opportunity to inform the public and make them aware of what the issues were at the time."

"And we hope to do the same [this time]."

Laberge added that in the Sudbury area, teachers are expected to be picketing outside all of the board's 10 secondary schools. This means that schools will be open, with only non-OSSTF employees inside.

The OSSTF said the government is still trying to impose mandatory e-learning, larger class sizes and other measures it says would degrade the quality of education in the province (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Norm Blaseg, director of education for the Rainbow District School Board, said they are still working on a plan to ensure that schools remain a safe environment, while respecting the teachers' right to strike. 

As details about the expected job action become clearer, Blaseg said he is comfortable the board could adapt to any changing situation.

"We need some clarity in terms of what we need to do in terms of ensuring that kids have access to the schools or not, depending on what is going to be presented by OSSTF," Blaseg said. "One would hope that we have good clarity, good conversation, good communication between now and Tuesday so that we can communicate to parents what exactly is before us." 

He added that as a former teacher and principal, he understands teachers' concerns in this round of bargaining with the province. 

"This is a very tough time for teachers," Blaseg said. "They're being asked to give up a lot."

"So I hope whatever it is at the end of day, they get it resolved."

Blaseg said that parents should keep themselves updated on negotiations by visiting the board's web site. 
 

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