Peel Region high school teachers join growing Ontario strike

High school teachers in public schools in Ontario's Peel Region are off the job today after negotiations with their school board fell apart despite four days of intensive meetings.

Negotiations with board fell apart after 4 days of meetings

Negotiations with board fell apart after 4 days of meetings 2:50

High school teachers in public schools in Ontario's Peel Region are off the job today after negotiations with their school board fell apart despite four days of intensive meetings.

The strike means no classes for 42,000 students in one of the country's biggest school boards — the region includes the municipalities of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon — with no word on when they'll resume.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) strike began after a 12:01 a.m. ET deadline passed without an agreement. School board officials call the strike disappointing and irresponsible, but the teachers' union leadership say it's necessary.

OSSTF president Paul Elliott told CBC Radio's Metro Morning the strike isn't about money, but "professional respect" for teachers. He said several issues dating back to 2008, including how teachers are evaluated, are stalling the negotiations.

There is no legitimate reason for Peel schools to be on strike — none.- Janet McDougald, Peel District School Board chair

"I do hope this doesn't take a long time," Elliott said, adding two sides are closer in the Peel negotiations than those with the Durham and Rainbow boards, where strikes are ongoing.

No talks are underway and there's no schedule for another meeting. 

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, called the strike "disappointing," and said he's fielding dozens of emails daily from parents and students worried about losing the rest of the school year. 

"We're trying to make sure it does not happen," he said.

In Peel, the school board's website lays out the closures that will be implemented Monday morning:

  • All regular instructional programs for grade 9 to 12 students are cancelled.
  • Secondary extracurricular activities, field trips and school events are cancelled.
  • Buses for secondary students will not operate. Buses to provincial schools will continue.

Peel District School Board chair Janet McDougald posted a statement online about the strike, accusing the OSSTF of using local-level strikes to create pressure at the provincial bargaining table. 

"Not only is that disingenuous, it's actually irresponsible to disrupt the school year for 42,000 Peel secondary students as a political tactic," she said. "There is no legitimate reason for Peel schools to be on strike — none."

Students, parents concerned about strike timing

Paul Okundaye, a Grade 12 student and Peel district student trustee, said students are worried about how the strike will affect them.

"There's a lot of angst and uncertainty around the whole thing," Okundaye said.

While midterm marks — which are normally the basis for university admittance — are already in, some students are concerned about graduating and about the possibility the school year may be extended into the summer.

Other students were less concerned with the prospect of a short strike.

"It's good for us right now, kids that don't want to go to school, but if it carries on too long, then it will get bad," said Kyrie Witley, another Grade 12 student in the region.

The risk of a drawn-out strike is also alarming parents.

"If we look back, what happened in B.C., it dragged for months and months, so if we end up in this situation, it's going to affect everything," said parent Depinder Singh, referring to the British Columbia teachers strike that wiped out 27 instructional days. 

Other strike-related closures include:

  • The Peel board's eLearning courses will not continue.
  • No night school classes.
  • Both elementary and secondary international language classes are cancelled.
  • Teachers may be picketing outside Peel secondary schools. Picketing is not expected to take place outside Peel elementary schools.

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