Stundents in Ontario’s Catholic schools could be out of class as early as May 10 now that their teachers have voted to strike.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association announced it’s members voted 94.2% in favour of strike action late Friday.
The vote puts them in a position to join their Durham Region public high school counterparts after they hit the picket lines last Monday.
“OECTA members have clearly expressed their opinion of the trustees’ and the government’s position at the bargaining table with this strike vote,” said union president James Ryan. “Our teachers know that what has been proposed goes far beyond demands for a wage freeze. The employer side is using the economy as the excuse to take back everything OECTA has gained in bargaining, locally and provincially, for decades. This includes provisions that recognize teachers’ professional judgment and fair hiring practices.”
The Catholic teachers’ union says its 50,000 members, who teach all grades in English Catholic schools across the province, aren’t heading towards a strike for a salary increase, but for improved working conditions.
They say the province is trying to strip them of their professional autonomy.
“Our members know they must take a stand against such proposals that also threaten students’ learning conditions,” says Ryan.
The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association said it is committed to finding a resolution to avoid a strike.
“Our focus is always on the wellbeing of all students and staff and our efforts remain focused on achieving a negotiated settlement that supports their well-being. We will continue to bargain in good faith, respecting the negotiating process and maintaining the specifics of negotiations at the table,” said Kathy Burtnik, president of OCSTA.
Trustee Maria Rizzo with the Toronto District Catholic School Board says she sees the union’s actions as a vote of solidarity.
“If you haven’t had a pay increase in a few years you might be prone to this as well,” Rizzo said.
“We don’t negotiate with unions. We’re out of the picture. They (the province) have taken over negotiations and it makes it difficult for everyone. (School boards) should be dealing with our own unions.”