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Teachers on strike rally outside of Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, May 14, 2015. High schools in the Durham, Peel and Rainbow districts reopened yesterday after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled the strikes illegal.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's public high school teachers are on their way to mounting a province-wide strike in September after asking earlier this week for a conciliator.

At the same time, 10,000 francophone elementary and high school teachers with the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) this week gave their union leadership a 93-per-cent strike mandate vote.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association already has a strong strike mandate and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (EFTO) representing public elementary school teachers are on an administrative work to rule.

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All of this strife on the labour front is pointing to turmoil and the potential of a mass strike across Ontario as two million students head back to school in the fall.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) asked for the conciliator Wednesday as talks at the provincial table between it and the government were not progressing. This is part of the process leading up to a full-blown strike.

The conciliation will most likely trigger a "no-board" report. Sanctions, including a lockout or strike, can be taken by either side 17 days after the report is issued.

Striking public high school teachers from three boards were just legislated back to work but they could be out again in September if the strike is province-wide. High school students in Durham region were off school for six weeks.

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown criticized the government for not taking the situation seriously.

"We are seeing education hurt. We are seeing what is critical education for young people in Ontario damaged," he told reporters Friday.

Carol Jolin, head of the AEFO, said his union is still negotiating but the process is going very slowly. He is hoping that the strength of the strike mandate might send a message that his members are ready to fight for good working conditions.

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However, he expects to ask for a conciliator – if nothing changes – by the end of June.

The leaders of the four unions have been meeting regularly to compare notes – and on Saturday the head of the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and leadership from three teachers' unions – OSSTF, OECTA and ETFO – will be in Collingwood for a rally outside of the Ontario Liberal Party's annual general meeting.

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