NORTH DURHAM: High school teachers across Durham Region traded in their classrooms for the picket lines on Monday, April 20, as local negotiations between the teacher’s union and school board have stalled.
OSSTF District 13 and the Durham District School Board are currently working with a Ministry of Labour mediator to get talks re-scheduled. However, as of The Standard’s press time, no new talks have been scheduled locally.
“What we are focusing on currently is just the ability to bargain a contract,” District 13 President Dave Barrowclough said in an interview with The Standard. “We moved off a few of our positions as a sign of good faith, but they are not moving, they are not bargaining.”
DDSB chairperson Michael Barrett told media in Toronto on Monday, April 20 that they are still “reaching out to the union” in hopes that talks will resume.
However, provincial talks between the OSSTF and the Ontario government have started back up, with both sides optimistic that a deal can be reached.
Education Minister Liz Sandals noted on Monday that she is “perplexed” by strike action taken by Durham teachers, and added that the matter is a local issue.
“I’ve been very perplexed as to why there is a strike in Durham because I haven’t heard a coherent explanation as to what the local issues are that have prompted a local strike,” Ms. Sandals told media members in Queen’s Park on Monday. “So, I think I’m like a lot of parents, quite frankly, and a lot of students and I suspect a lot of teachers — that we’re all a little bit mystified as to what is the local issue that has prompted this strike.”
An OSSTF spokesperson was not available as of The Standard’s press time to address Minister Sandals’ comments.
However, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath countered that the issue is not merely a “local” strike by the OSSTF, and laid blame with the Liberal government for removing resources from the education system.
“This is the first time the teachers have been on the picket line since Mike Harris and it is because the Liberals are cutting back education,” Horwath told the Toronto Sun. “It’s because the teachers are seeing, education workers are seeing, the impacts of Liberal cuts on the quality of education... It’s shameful and it’s a black eye, I believe, on Kathleen Wynne.”
This is the first time that a two tiered approach has been used in this kind of labour negotiation. A teacher’s strike in 2012, that ended with a new contract imposed on the teacher’s union by the province, leading to the current labour unrest, which may lead to teachers with other school boards striking next week.
Class sizes and salary issues will be handled by provincial talks, while issues such as teacher transfers and unpaid leave will be handled by local talks between District 13 and the DDSB.