OSSTF offers province a way to prevent 1-day strike

Ontario's education minister fired back at a list of demands from the Ontario high school teachers union, calling for an end to 'the games that singularly hurt our kids.'

‘Enough with the games that singularly hurt our kids,’ education minister says

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), announced on Friday that the union would hold a one-day teacher strike on Wednesday. The union says it will not strike if the government meets three demands. (CBC)

The union representing Ontario secondary school teachers put forth a list of demands it says the government must meet if it wants to prevent some teachers from walking off the job on Wednesday in a one-day strike.

In a statement released late Friday night, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) proposed that the government revert to class sizes of 22 students, eliminate e-learning courses and ensure Bill 124 will not impede free collective bargaining.

In return, the union said it would postpone the full withdrawal of services at some education boards on Wednesday and agree to go into private mediation with the government.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce fired back in a statement of his own on Saturday, arguing that the union's proposal is "a restatement of OSSTF's original and unchanged collective bargaining brief passed months ago."

Lecce said the government has made reasonable offers at the negotiating table, including to change class sizes to 25 students, from its original proposal of 28, and to reduce the number of online learning courses high school students would be required to take from four to two.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a statement of his own on Saturday, calling for the teachers' union to agree to private mediation 'without any preconditions.' (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

"Enough with the games that singularly hurt our kids," the statement said. 

"Union leaders should agree to private mediation without any preconditions, like we did with CUPE, where a voluntary agreement was reached that kept kids in class."

Ministry spokesperson Alexandra Adama said the government has told its mediator to inform OSSTF they are "always available to negotiate. They have not offered us dates."

OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said on Saturday that the union has not been invited to return to the negotiating table.

"The ball's in the government's court to respond to us," he said.