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PECI teachers feel supported in one-day provincial strike

Prince Edward Collegiate Institute secondary school teachers are back in classrooms Thursday, following a one-day province-wide strike to pressure the provincial government in stalled contract talks.

While both sides are criticizing the other, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) says it wants to protect the quality of education by opposing the government’s intentions to increase class sizes and have mandatory online learning, among other issues.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce maintains the union’s priority is a wage increase, offering one percent annually. The OSSTF seeks a cost-of-living increase.

Some 40,000 high school teachers, 15,000 support staff and about 600,000 students are affected throughout the province. Negotiations first began more than 200 days ago.

About 35 OSSTF members at PECI were on strike outside the school over two shifts Wednesday, while more than 500 secondary students had a day away from classes. The elementary school grades at PECI attended classes.

Though not bitterly cold, the day was damp with a rain and snow mix – sending a few of them on a quick run into town to buy new boots.

While they walked the sidewalks in front of the school, passing vehicles honked in support – including the OPP, Hydro and passersby. CN Rail employees stopped by to see if they want them to drop off burn barrels to help keep warm.

“We’ve had people coming by with lots of support. We are just trying to maintain the quality of education that we’ve got now,” said a spokesperson on the line. “We’re just trying to hang onto it.”

Food and coffee was being delivered regularly and elementary teachers set up a lunch table nearby where a peer lives for their teaching colleagues to warm up and eat some food.

“Even our administration has been amazing. They’re buying everybody pizza for lunch. They know what we’re doing and what’s going on affects them too. If we lose 25 per cent of our teaching staff, there’s a chance the government’s going to want to take administrative staff too. If you’re taking away all these people you’re supposed to be managing, then you don’t need as many managers, do we? That’s my thinking.”

Another on the line was most concerned about the changes that would result in courses that would no longer be available, due to lack of teachers and schedule crushing. The problem, the spokeperson noted, has been ongoing for years, and won’t get better with proposed changes.

Despite the challenges, morale is good.

“Our people are all on board. Our admin is onboard. The custodians were out this morning cleaning off the sidewalk for us. Our elementary colleagues, I think were baking for two days to make sure we would have a buffet over there… We have plenty of support.”

OSSTF District 29 President Scott Marshall was doing the circuit Wednesday visiting secondary schools in Trenton, Belleville, Picton and Bancroft.

“It is very disappointing that this government continues to spin their cuts as a modernization of the public education system,” said Marshall in a statement last week. “Their cuts will absolutely have a negative impact on student outcomes, and negate the gains that have been made in student success and graduation rates over the past decade.”

“They have refused to acknowledge the negative impact increased class sizes, mandatory e-learning, and the loss of thousands of teacher and support staff positions will have on the province’s students.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced last week he was reducing the number of online courses students would have to take, to two, from four and lower the increase of class sizes of 22 students, to 25 from the original plan to increase to 28.

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  1. Mark says:

    Ontario is spending $35,000,000 everyday to finance the debt. And one wonders why folks cannot recognize that and realize someting has to give. Unions could certainly assist in making a start. Unfortunately rather than first initiated to protect workers, Unions are now delving into eduction policy which is not their role. Not to mention that they constantly demand unrealistic wage increases.

  2. Michelle says:

    Someone, somebody has to face the reality of the enormous deficit. No one likes to see cuts, but imagine your household relying year after year on a credit card. Doesn’t work, as the banker comes calling. It’s easy for well to do pensioners to slam Mr.Ford but in reality their resistance places more unsustainable debt on their grandchildren. Things cannot continue as status quo. Our students skills are dropping in testing and teachers are being asked to ensure their skills are worthy of delivering better. That makes sense.

  3. Gary says:

    If your preference is endless spending with no day of accounting then you are the Unions best friend. I feel our students should be aware that running up continuos debt is not realistic. Ontario has the largest debt (360 Billion) of any non sovereign entity in the world. The debt is crippling health care, education and infrastructure. If the debt was a Ministry it’s cost would be 2nd, only behind health care. Unsustainable!

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    kb – thanks for your good effort here. I have found that far too many do not want to know the facts, nor try to think their way through this time. On one hand, I understand because our provincial government has become masters of confusion – just look at the nonsense about “buck-a-beer” and all the promotion they got out of that – and yet they get away with misleading the public and these same locals keep supporting Ford. As far as trying to convince some of the very “Big C” locals about the dishonesty that Ford is spreading – remember these are the same people who voted for Mike Harris. If allowed to succeed in all his efforts, Picton Hospital would have been closed down 20 years ago and be only a faint memory now. It was due to the efforts of unions who marched on Queen’s Park and to the many members of the public who finally realized that it wasn’t the big bad unions who were trying to close schools, hospitals, or take the cheap way to purify water – instead it was the big bad Conservative government who were claiming to balance the budget at the expense of everyone else – while lining their pockets and the pockets of big business. History does repeat itself – I was hoping that some of the public might remember that. Most do, but obviously not all of them.

  5. kb says:

    I implore everyone to simply look at the facts. Bill 124. Bill 124 is broad and far-reaching, and places limits on OSSTF/FEESO’s ability to freely bargain compensation with employers.
    Dougie and his friends have sabotaged this process.
    Before making a decision on whether you support the teachers, do your homework, look at the facts, and then decide how this behavior affects our entire province, kids and public services. Yes they are a strong union, and I’m glad for that. We need someone to stand up to these bullies.
    For those who support what the Provincial Conservatives are doing, you better get ready. When will it stop. When they start dismantling your collective agreement, or changing the labor laws, or clawing back your pensions, affecting publicly funded services which in many cases are in a shambles already – health care, LCBO, social benefits and housing.
    How can anyone who has reviewed the facts, measure the risks not come to the conclusion that this is detrimental. This is an attack on our social rights, free bargaining and democratic process. Folks, don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Support our the future generations who deserve better.

  6. Rob #2 says:

    I can’t believe it’s necessary to say this but just because some people tell government that they want things a certain way doesn’t mean they’ll get it, nor does it mean their position is even practical.

  7. Mark says:

    Because people disagree on the issues evolving, does not make one side naysayers. When Unions feel they are education policy makers they have overstepped their role.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    I have explained as best I can what the issues are. What most are not remembering is that the government consulted with parents and community groups last spring and were told very clearly that the community did not want larger class sizes, nor online E-learning for their kids. Yet the government ignores the input they asked for and carries on as if it never took place. Why don’t some of you all-knowing naysayers explain this?

  9. Gary says:

    If it is not about money then why are the 4 Teachers Unions going to court to fight the 1% wage increase cap? They are trying to sell it as cuts but the $$ are pushing the agenda as always.

  10. Emily says:

    Melarchy. This situation is purely Union driven.

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    Just to bring another perspective to the salary issue….

    To become a teacher you need a minimum of 3 years university and 2 years of teachers college just to get your toe in the door. That is 5 years of postsecondary education,just to qualify – 5 years of spending money in the “hope” of getting a job. From there most teachers need to get hired on first as an occasional teacher (very few are hired on as full time contract teachers straight from college, unless they have a specialty subject like French), then most spend (depending on the Board and the number of retirees) around 5 years as an occasional teacher just to get on the “eligibility list” to get hired on full time, once on this list, they can spend as long as another 5 years doing long term occasional teaching before ever getting a full time job with full benefits and not have to worry about a job for the following year and having to collect EI when not working.

    To summarize, a person can spend as long as ten years before ever being hired on full time – this is common across the province. Yet the government allows young people to attend teachers’ college in the thousands every year, knowing there are no jobs for them – many go into other fields after they graduate.

    A teacher needs a minimum of a 4 years honour degree, plus 2 years of teachers college and TEN years of teaching experience before ever reaching the top salary. The idea that the “average pay for a teacher is $93K is nonsense. A teacher starts on the first salary step at around $50K – it takes another 9 years to reach their max. of around $90K Today a journeyman plumber makes more than a teacher at their max and they don’t have to put up with crazy politicians and an uniformed public to get their pay, nor is any other profession expected to take courses (they pay for) during their vacation time in order to improve their skills for their students and to improve their income.

    It was the Harris government that amalgamated towns ad cities AND the Boards and the teacher unions – it was Harris who took over negotiations from the local Bds. of Ed. Teachers didn’t invent this setup, nor are they responsible for it – they have to tolerate it and put up with uniformed politicians who have no idea what teachers do or what kids need and they have no appreciation for the job. We need to start asking – what young person would want to be employed into such a work environment? A more important question to ask is – isn’t a teacher’s work environment the same as the student’s learning environment?

    Teachers need the public to inform themselves and to force the government back to the negotiations table to negotiate in good faith. Right now Ford and Lecce are game playing by passing legislation capping teachers pay increase at 1%. Since when did any government pass legislation to control negotiations? They expect people to work harder by increasing class size and then not even increasing their pay by the rate of inflation! It is time for the public to get involved in a meaningful way – call your MPP.

  12. Michelle says:

    Some people think there is no end to the public purse and we must succumb to Union demands. There are better ways to educate. E Learning is not a bad thing, A monitor educating fits with todays students and they really dont care if they are educating 25 or 28. E Learning can also ensure the product is over 70% accurate teaching,I see a lot of benefits in this approach. Students really relate to a modern online experience, it is credibility better, and reduces costs. Win, Win.

  13. Susan says:

    If as the Union states, it’s not about money, they can remove their demand for 1.5 billion increase in pay and benefits and put it towards the students. In your lap Union.

  14. Fred says:

    So now an average salary of $93,000 is peanuts! I can”t take that seriously. All other public workers are being asked to accept 1%. Thats not unreasonable given the finacial situation.

  15. Dennis Fox says:

    The idea that any group of public employees should have to pay for the bad decisions of both the current and past governments is ridiculous. The bottom line is that it was the “public” who voted in “their” government – why should it be teachers, or nurses or doctors, etc… that are expected to bite the bullet to pay down the debt? This money was used by everyone – so everyone should be asked to pay up – particularly big business.

    As employers the public are expected to act fairly and responsibly – so when are they going to start standing up for their employees and demand that the government negotiate properly with them? So far all that I have heard is a bunch of whining from people who think that teachers have it too easy and are jealous that they are not one too! Typical grade school mentality is all that is being heard. Teachers spend more time with kids than what their parents do – and taking care of them in every way – plus educating them! Don’t expect them to work for peanuts – only monkeys do that!

  16. kb says:

    Call it whatever you want. My support is for the students, their education and everyone’s future. It’s simple logic. Look after our kids and we prepare for future generations.

  17. Gary says:

    For teachers to expect no impacts upon themselves while our Government attempts to protect our future including education by tackling a crippling 360 billion debt is selfish and disappointing. The Union is using students to fulfill their agenda.

  18. Chris Keen says:

    kb: That’s called “spin”. Both sides are adept at it.

  19. sueb says:

    To all who think teachers are paid too much remember….these are the people we trust with our most precious resource – and one of society’s most vulnerable. Our children. The next generations. I believe that anyone who works hard with a focus to teach are children, deserve to be paid in accordance with the cost of living. Yes the pay may seem high to some. Let’s remember, these teachers are fighting for our children, demonstrating and showing them how to stand up to a government which is more concerned with financial savings. I support their efforts, and kudos to anyone who can protect our future, and that of our children’s. Cuts in education only serve to debilitate true potential.

  20. kb says:

    Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said this government has made ‘significant’ moves during negotiations with OSSTF. But here are the FACTS:

    1. The Ford government proposed increasing class sizes from 22 to 28. After significant backlash from parents, stakeholders, and education advocates like yourself, they announced an increase to an average class size of 25. While they try to mislead the public by saying they’ve made concessions by reducing average class sizes from 28 to 25, the TRUTH is that they are actually increasing average classes sizes from 22 to 25.

    2. The Ford government announced FOUR mandatory e-learning courses. But, following criticism, Lecce announced changes to two mandatory e-learning courses. Minister Lecce is trying to say that he’s made concessions, but the TRUTH is that they are implementing TWO mandatory e-learning courses without properly studying the issue for its effectiveness or feasibility.

    3. The Ford Government continues to mislead the public by saying that Ontario’s educators, represented by OSSTF, are asking for a $1.5B increase. This is categorically FALSE: The OSSTF is asking for a cost of living adjustment, which amounts to about $220M over THREE years.

  21. Robert says:

    As discussed at our meeting Saturday, the following are some brief notes about Canada’s ranking in PISA.

    Program International Student Assessment (PISA) are standardized tests in math, science and reading conducted every 3 years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 600,000 randomly selected 15 year olds from 79 countries are tested.

    2018, Canada ranked 6th in the world behind Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Estonia.

    USA ranked 31st

    Ontario ranks 3rd in Science and 2nd in reading and math amount all Canadian provinces.

    Canada is noted by the OECD for our success at educating ESL learners and narrowing the gap between the top and bottom ranked students.

    One more note. Ontario’s minister of education’s idea for mandatory online courses is copied from Alabama, which rank # 49 of the 50 states.

    Hope this is helpful Robert

    FYI. I will be at the picket line Wednesday between 8:30 – 9 am for an hour or so.

    Sent from my iPad

  22. Chuck says:

    Perhaps an appropriate time to revisit the fact that our school district ranks very low provincially in mathematics and english skills. The teachers Union opposes that teachers should be retested for 70% proficiency in math skills for teaching. 70% ?? Hmm.

  23. Mark says:

    The Ministry of Education has already stated that there would be no impact on student learning services. It is not the Ministry’s job to maintain teacher positions that are not required, nor would the tax paying public expect such.

  24. Bruce Nicholson says:

    Would a member of the local school board or the prinicipal of PECI please advise what the impact of the Province’s maximum class size will be on the staff numbers at this school.
    I think that we, the taxpayer public, deserve to know.

  25. Emily says:

    Teachers are walking out again this Wednesday while they demand a 1.5 Billion increase in compensation and benefits according to the Minister of Education.

  26. doug says:

    I do want the teachers job but maybe the 7000 teaching jobs the union says will be lost could be reduced if the retired teachers did not have a good indexed pension then double dip thus taking a job from a young teacher just starting their career .

  27. Gary says:

    For fair information, teachers did not lose a days pay for their walkout Wednesday. They are required to work 180 days a year (36 weeks) and that time can be made up prior to the next school year.

  28. Susan says:

    $93,000 for 9 months work is pretty good pay. And that comes with an indexed pension for life. Especialy notable in a community where so many struggle to find housing and have adequate food.

  29. Dennis Fox says:

    Just to clarify a point made earlier by a commenter – the teacher union leaders are NOT paid by the public. They are paid by their members through their union dues. The members elect their leaders and decide on how much they get paid.

    What is happening now is exactly how government wants this to play out- – let the “big bad union bosses” take the heat, while the government hides and negotiates through the media. Mike Harris was a master at this – Doug Ford is not.

    I believe I too will take a rest from this debate, until more development in this dispute occurs.

  30. ADJ says:

    I’m playing nice here that the tax paying public are getting sick and tired of the increases handed out to the teachers union. Notice I said union not teacher.
    The public now has even taken their own protest against the walkout to the street as in Napanee today. (See the story in Quinte News)
    We are all allowed a voice on here and each to his own opinion. Useless to discuss it further so I’ll end it now. Have at it people.

  31. Mark says:

    So funny, having to run to buy boots, get the sidewalk shovelled and food delivered. Give us a break, life is tough!

  32. Rob #2 says:

    The teachers have the fortune of being in a union. They can therefore bargain with their employer to better their lot. In most cases this means more money for doing less work. Don’t ever lose sight of that fact whenever a union is involved. Any union member who won’t admit that is not being completely honest.

    But the union spin wizards know that they need to package this in a way that is most likely to get sympathy from a public not in the loop or only paying slight attention to the news. So let’s settle on class sizes and how concerned they are for the students as their motivation for the strike. They can’t handle much more than twenty kids in a classroom yet someone making less than the guy who delivers your pizza has to somehow handle them while driving a bus to and from school.

    Of course the real issue that everyone should be concerned with is the spillover from the street to the classroom. I have no doubt at all that there are many teachers in the province who use their position to subtly (or not so subtly) indoctrinate and advance their own contempt for a point of view counter to their own. That is the saddest part of all.

    So my own personal message to the teachers is that you have the right to get what you can for your work arrangement through your union as we all would in your shoes, but the public also has the right to look at you and smirk. That is just the way it is and always has been in public sector unions. Just make a positive and professional impact on your students and realize that even in high school they are naive as hell and you need to leave your personal political opinions at home during the three 76 minutes you spend in front of them each day.

  33. Dennis Fox says:

    Doug Ford gives tax breaks to the rich and forces working people to strike. This so called push to balance the budget at the expense of education is a total con job. Teachers are demanding a fair process to arrive at a fair contract. I doubt that you know what a senior union person looks like – but I can assure you that they are either out marching or negotiating – or at least trying to. Tell me, do you see Ford or Lecce trying to do anything?

    Let’s just hope when today’s kids are older they don’t decide to say “to heck with taking care of the elderly and sick” we can cut their funding to balance the budget.

    Have you contacted your MPP yet to let him know your thoughts on this matter?

  34. ADJ says:

    I disagree…Leave the politics out of it and take a poll in favour or not of legal strike action. As the strike drags on, and it could, parents or Joe Public will see this as greed on behalf of the teacher and it’s not all their fault.
    I still think we have honest hardworking teachers there however they have a vote to strike or not and if it’s strike you had better show up for picket duty. Plain to see whose driving the bus!
    I agree that negotiations should have been finalized long ago however I think this is a ploy of the Gov. negotiator to stall out the talks until cold winter weather is upon us. Nobody wants to walk for two hrs. back and forth in minus temps but they are doing what they are told to do. I’ve yet to see a senior union advisor out there day after day marching with the crew holding the strike signs. With the Christmas Break approaching will there be any picket duty or can I still make my prepaid Cancun vacation?

  35. Emily says:

    Unions are very good at spinning public relations and in this case they present their argument as to what they view as cuts to education. Make no mistake, behind the spin they want more money.

  36. Dennis Fox says:

    Good for our teachers who are placing the students first. Anyone believing that this is about the money is wrong and they haven’t been following this issue at all. Who in their right mind would think that anyone would strike (one day or not) and lose a day’s pay, just before Christmas if it wasn’t about something greater than the pocketbook?

    Teachers are up against a populist government who places “buck-a-beer” mentality ahead of good educational policy because they feel many will buy into their nonsense. Teachers are setting a good example of how to protest responsibly against an out of touch government – the only government in North America that set compulsory online courses for kids and reinstates an outdated SEX ED. program, claiming both are an improvement in education.

    Despite some of the comments, I am sure that the vast majority of the public, students and parents support our teachers’ job action. As a parent with children well beyond the school age, I thank the teachers on behalf of my grandchildren.

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