Toronto

Ontario Catholic teachers to resume one-day strikes next week

The union representing Ontario's Catholic teachers says it will hold a province-wide strike next Thursday after foregoing this week's walkout.

Province’s 4 unions have been negotiating new collective agreements since September

OECTA says it suspended this week's strike to demonstrate its commitment to good-faith bargaining, but it says it will resume the practice now that contract talks have once again broken down. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

Ontario's Catholic teachers will hold another province-wide strike next week after efforts to resume labour negotiations with the provincial government broke down, the union representing the educators said Thursday.

In a statement announcing the March 5, job action, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association said it suspended planned walkouts as a "sign of good faith" when it returned to the bargaining table earlier this week.

But OECTA President Liz Stuart said the government, which is in tense contract talks with all four of the province's major teachers' unions, did not make a similar effort.

"Instead of coming to the table with a plan to reach an agreement, the government continued to insist on its deep, permanent cuts," Stuart said in the statement announcing the strike. "All the while, the minister of education has continued his attempts to mislead the public by making baseless accusations against Catholic teachers and our association."

Next Thursday's strike comes nearly two weeks after a province-wide walkout involving nearly 200,000 teachers from all four of the province's major education labour groups. It was the largest such strike in more than 20 years.

OECTA, along with unions representing elementary, high school and French-language teachers, have been in contentious labour negotiations with the government since their contracts expired in August 2019.

Unions asking for about 2% in annual salary hikes

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation has repeatedly voiced concerns with the government's planned increases to class sizes and new mandatory e-learning requirements. The union has been holding a series of rotating one-day strikes in protest, and another such walkout is planned across 16 school boards on Friday.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has said its key issues include guaranteeing the future of full-day kindergarten, securing more funding to hire special education teachers, and maintaining seniority hiring rules.

The union representing Ontario's French-language teachers, meanwhile, is slated to return to the bargaining table with the government on Friday.

All of the teachers' unions are also asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, but the Ontario government has passed legislation capping raises for public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The unions and other groups are challenging that legislation in court, saying it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the two-per-cent raise the teachers are seeking is the biggest sticking point in current contract talks.

His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on OECTA's planned strike.

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