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County teachers, education workers hit picket lines in third one day walkout

Teachers and education workers represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) in District 29 Hastings Prince Edward participated in their third strike Tuesday.

All seven of the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board’s secondary schools (one Grades K-12; four Grades 7-12; two are Grades 9-12) were affected. Elementary students were not affected.

The action protests government changes that include larger class sizes, mandatory e-learning and a wage increase matching inflation.

As they carried flags and signs outside of the high school and through the streets into downtown, they were greeted with honks of support from passing vehicle, and “a few thumbs down” along the way.

For the first time in more than 20 years, all four education unions, (elementary, secondary, English and French Catholic) have moved into legal strike positions.

The four unions, and the Ontario government, seek a negotiated agreement to address labour issues, end job action and a new collective agreement. They unions and government continue to blame each other for the stalled process.

“The OSSTF will continue job action, including rotating strikes, unless the government cancels its plan to slash thousands of high school teaching positions by increasing class sizes across the province,” said Scott Marshall, D29 OSSTF District President, in a statement. “The Ford/Smith plan to hollow out our public system to allow for privatization has become clear, considering recently discovered information regarding this government’s heedless plan for mandatory e-learning… These measures are necessary to defend a world-class, public education system from a government that continues to insist on undermining it.”

Next steps have not been determined beyond rotating strikes and work-to-rule campaigns, but could escalate to province-wide walkouts, or a longer strike.

The OSSTF has been having weekly, one-day rotating strikes across the province since Dec. 4. The OECTA escalated to a one-day province-wide strike for Jan. 21. Both are away from job action next week during the secondary school exam period.

The Ontario government could pass back-to-work legislation as the former government did in 2015 during the secondary teachers’ strike; in the 2017 college faculty strike. Generally, the government does not force workers back unless there is a necessity or urgency, such as students losing their school year or in the interest of public safety.

The unions state they are far from a deal – the OSSTF and ETFO noting their last bargaining sessions were more than a month ago and no date has been set to meet again.

Tuesday, members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) took part in a one-day strike, meaning all eastern Ontario English Catholics schools were closed. The French (AEFO) association continues work-to-rule campaigns.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) held a one-day strike at nine school boards in the province – including the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) has planned for one-day walkouts at select school boards all five days this week – but none in Hastings Prince Edward locations.

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