Ontario’s high-school teachers will receive three-quarters of their pay if they walk out of the classroom, according to a memo from the teachers’ union that signals it is prepared for battle, regardless of which party wins Thursday’s provincial election.
The strike pay terms will enable the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) to “negotiate from a position of strength,” according to the memo, which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
Union representatives discussed the strike pay and approved a levy to bolster their strike fund at a special meeting in late May.
Teachers have taken a wage cut in the last two years in the form of a minimum one day of unpaid leave. The union is seeking “real improvements” for its members, while both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives – who are leading the polls – have signalled that they won’t be handing out raises.
“Bargaining in this environment may well lead to conflict, including strikes,” the memo reads.
In the past, teachers have received significantly less strike pay, about $65 a day, according to OSSTF president Paul Elliot. He said the union is in “unchartered waters” given how Bill 122 has reshaped the negotiations process.
The legislation, which was introduced by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, defines how the bargaining process will work: Big monetary issues, such as salaries and benefits, will be negotiated centrally by the government, provincial unions and school board associations; bargaining on local issues, such as teachers’ workload, access to technology and training, would take place between individual school boards and their unions.
The legislation aims to avoid some of the chaos of last year, when teachers held walkouts and withdrew extracurriculars to protest contract terms imposed under former premier Dalton McGuinty. A Liberal Party spokesperson said the legislation will ensure a “more effective bargaining process, with clearer roles and responsibilities” that could avoid another battle.
Teacher contracts expire in August.
The Liberal budget that triggered the election didn’t provide new funds for teacher salaries, and the Conservatives have promised to freeze wages, cut support staff and raise class sizes.
The union memo refers to a “seemingly imminent struggle.” The OSSTF may be wanting to avoid the situation faced by the teachers’ union in B.C. where the strike pay fund has run dry just as teachers are voting this week on escalating their work stoppage to a full-strike.
Those in the Ontario education sector are expecting a tense showdown, regardless of which party wins on Thursday.
With a report from Adrian Morrow