Could We Be In For Another War – Circa late 1990s – Between Ontario’s Government and Teachers?

Ontario’s Education Minister Calls on Teachers’ Unions to Start Negotiations

“Our government wants to work co-operatively with the unions to address the real issues with our education system and we are prepared to immediately begin bargaining in good faith.”              – Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Education         

A News Release from the Ontario Government

Posted April 30th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson

TORONTO — Today (this April 30th), Lisa Thompson, Minister of Education, issued the following statement in response to the start of education sector labour negotiations:

“Our government took the unprecedented step this month of providing teachers’ unions with an opportunity to start early good faith bargaining to allow labour negotiations to conclude in time to ensure our students will be in classes, where they belong, in September.

The current education sector labour agreement negotiated by the previous government expires on August 31, 2019, which coincides with the start of the fall school year.

We believe this is unacceptable. Our government will be considering changing the expiry date of future education sector labour agreements to a different time of year to minimize any disruption to students’ ability to attend class.

We are pleased that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has taken up our invitation to start early good faith bargaining and we are calling on the remaining teachers’ federations to follow their lead.

We are extremely disappointed the remaining teachers’ federations and education workers’ unions have not responded to this opportunity.

Beginning this process as early as possible is critical to protecting student achievement and the interests of Ontario families. Students need to be in class when school starts in September and parents need to be assured this will happen. 

Those federations and unions who continue to delay the bargaining process are acting irresponsibly and causing unnecessary fear and anxiety for parents. They continue to prioritize their own agenda at the cost of student success and sow seeds of division and doubt.

Our government is committed to raising student test scores, addressing declining math scores and preparing students with the skills they need to enter the workforce.

We have already taken steps to address a number of challenges our students face today. On March 15, 2019, our government shared its vision for education in Ontario, Education that Works for You.

Our 2019-20 budget protects what matters most by increasing education funding by $700 million over last year.

We are improving students’ math performance with our new $200 million four-year math strategy and we have added a $1.6 billion fund over the next four years specifically to ensure no teacher loses their job as a result of our proposed changes to class sizes or e-learning. 

Those who are unwilling to join us at the bargaining table nonetheless remain outspoken about their disappointment in our vision for education. We remain focused on providing the best possible education system for our students and peace of mind for parents.

Our government wants to work co-operatively with the unions to address the real issues with our education system and we are prepared to immediately begin bargaining in good faith.”

A Brief Footnote from Doug Draper, Niagara At Large –

In the late 1990s, relations deteriorated so badly between Ontario’s the then-Conservative government of Mike Harris and the province’s elementary and secondary teachers’ unions that, at one point, countless thousands of teachers in Niagara and other regions of Ontario took to the streets for three weeks in what the government alleged was “an illegal walkout.”
As a reporter who covered the conflict between the government and teachers for The St. Catharines Standard at the time, it was never clear which side benefited, if there was any benefit at all, from the walkout and all of the turmoil that occurred before and after it.

What did seem clear to me as a reporter and a father of a child in grade school at the time, was that the ones who suffered the most from all of this were the students, who sides claimed they cared about but who often seemed like they were being used as pawns in a government vs. union game I was not even sure how many teachers had their hearts in.

Let’s hope that this time, all sides can negotiate agreements that are in the best interests of students and quality, public education.

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


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