ONTARIO – Despite concessions from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) plan on going ahead with a one day strike tomorrow, March 5, affecting Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) schools.
In an announcement on Tuesday, March 3, Lecce stated that the government would freeze their planned class size increases as well as their cuts to Special Education, but promised to hold firm on his stance on wages and benefits.
“This is a balanced plan that reflects the priorities of students and parents, maintaining class sizes, investing in students’ unique learning needs, and holds the line on the reasonable increase in wages and compensation we are offering,” said Lecce. “If the unions reject this most recent, student-centric offer, parents should rightly be asking what exactly are the priorities of the unions.”
In a statement released earlier in the day, OECTA President Liz Stuart slammed the government and claimed that they did not have the best interest of students and public education at heart.
“Since well before Christmas, the OECTA Provincial Bargaining Team has informed the government that while we strongly object to their unconstitutional wage restraint legislation, and retain our fundamental right to challenge it through the courts, we are prepared to accept the salary they have offered at the bargaining table, in order to bring stability and certainty into our schools for our students and parents,” Stuarts statement reads. “Furthermore, we will work within the funding amount for health benefits the government has proposed at our table as recently as last week.”
Another union with which the government is negotiating, the English Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) slammed Lecce for not coming to the bargaining table.
“ETFO does not bargain in the media and we have not seen details of the Minister’s proposals at the central bargaining table,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “We have learned from past experience that Minister Lecce’s public announcements do not necessarily translate into negotiating proposals at the table.”
“I can say that the minister only referred to one special education fund while we are trying to maintain a second fund that was agreed to in our last contract extension. If that is the case, special education funding is still down by about $25 million. And contrary to what the minister said, these funds flowed through school boards, not unions.”
“Minister Lecce has not reversed the class size increases in grades 4-8, which remain the largest in the system,” added Hammond.