Hundreds of thousands of Ontario students stayed home one day this week, as teachers set up picket lines across the province. It’s the latest escalation as the teachers and the Ontario government remain far apart in contract talks.
Sixty-thousand public high school teachers and support workers walked off the job Wednesday after months of talks failed to produce a new agreement. The big issues remain—proposed increases to class sizes, mandatory e-learning, and money.
There was intensive bargaining in the days before the strike collapsed. The result is the first teachers’ strike in Ontario in 22 years.
Education minister Stephen Lecce said the strike is about teachers wanting more money and the province can’t afford more than it has offered.
“They are high-paid. They are well-paid and we value their contribution to public service but at the end of the day, we’re offering one percent. It is a reasonable, constructive approach,” Lecce said.
But Harvey Bisschof, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation said it’s not about money, it's about issues that affect the quality of education. That’s also the view of many teachers on the picket lines.
"We're not in it for us. We're in it for the education system. We're in it for the kids," said one teacher.
"When I hear about increasing class sizes or putting these at-risk youth on e-learning for two courses, all I can think is, 'This is going to hurt them,'" said another.
Lecce called the strike unacceptable but he may have more trouble on the horizon. Catholic school teachers are less than three weeks away from also being in a legal strike position.