Kids are returning to school this fall amid some uncertainty as teachers continue to negotiate for new contracts.
None of the four unions representing teachers and some education workers in Ontario have reached a consensus with the provincial government on a new collective agreement, with three of the four committing to strike votes in the fall.
Here’s what parents need to know about a potential strike:
WHO IS NEGOTIATING?
The following unions are in talks with the provincial government: the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO).
All but the OSSTF have rejected the province’s offer of binding interest arbitration, which would ultimately put the final bargaining decision on a neutral third party. This process could, if agreed upon, help avoid a strike in public high schools.
WILL THERE BE A STRIKE SOON?
The short answer is no. Work action won’t likely happen for a few months, if at all.
All three remaining unions have said they will go forward with a strike vote in the fall if negotiations continue to fall flat. The votes are scheduled for mid-September to mid-November.
Members must vote in favour of a strike before any action is planned.
ETFO has said it is moving forward with next steps and requesting conciliation, a formal mediation process in which a third-party is brought in to work with both sides and help find a resolution.
It’s a common process prior to union members engaging in any strikes or work action.
If no agreement is made during conciliation, a “no-board” notice will be issued. At this point, a 16-day countdown to a legal strike or work action will begin.
WILL KIDS BE SENT HOME?
There are a number of job actions teachers can take other than a full-out strike. For example, teachers can remove themselves from extra-curricular activities, pledging to do the minimum in the classroom.
Last year, when the province forcibly legislated a contract with education support workers and passed a bill making strikes illegal, unions took part in one province-wide single-day walkout, as well as rotating one-day strikes, in defiance. During this time, kids were unable to be in the classrooms.
There was no general, multi-day strike.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Teachers have been without a contract for over a year. According to a document obtained by CTV News Toronto, the province has offered teachers an increase of 1.25 per cent per year, for four years. However, teachers have been asking for a one per cent increase per year, in addition with an annual cost of living adjustment tied to inflation.
Statistics Canada said that Canada’s inflation rate rose to 3.3 per cent in July.
Teachers have also mentioned that issues such as violence in schools and hiring practices are being discussed.