Ontario High School Teachers Approve Deal, Warding Off Potential Strike


In a recent vote, public high school teachers in Ontario have approved a deal with their union and the province, thereby eliminating the possibility of a strike by resorting to voluntary binding arbitration. The deal emanated from a fruitful and committal bargaining session involving the province and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), which took place in late August. It was established that if they fail to attain a collective agreement by October 27, an external party would be engaged to rule on issues that remain unresolved.

During the voting period, spanning from September 7 to this past Wednesday, members of the OSSTF, ranging from education workers to teachers themselves, were given an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the proposed plan. Education Minister Stephen Lecce seemed optimistic about the deal, stating that it permits students to continue their education without the looming threat of strikes, while also keeping teachers in their classrooms.

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He remarked, “We have successfully united to prioritize over 400,000 English public high school students. This means a student who began their high school journey last year will graduate in three years, free from strike worries.”

Over 78 per cent of the members of the OSSTF gave their nod to the proposition, assuring that there would be no strikes or shut downs during the ongoing rounds of negotiations with the province. Anything that can’t be resolved shall be submitted for arbitration.

OSSTF/FEESO President Karen Littlewood expressed her satisfaction with the long-standing voting process, stating, “We are elated to declare that all unresolved issues will now be placed before an impartial third-party arbitrator. This substantial shift in procedure came after extensive efforts made over the past 14 months to involve the Ford government in sincere bargaining but to no avail.”

Following the announcement, Littlewood added that the new scenario at the bargaining table is significantly different. “While it has hinged on the support of our members, the current government, now possessing a majority, has demonstrated willingness for decisions to be made by an arbitrator. We believe this is largely due to the mishaps associated with the Greenbelt and resignations of ministers. Thus, this new agreement serves as a positive news story for the public education system, the government and education workers.”

The province marked another accomplishment last week when it reached a tentative agreement with the 3,500 education workers represented by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation (ETFO). However, an agreement is yet to be forged with the union that represents 80,000 teachers and occasional teacher members.

Education Minister Lecce remarked on this by saying, “I believe we’re on the correct path. The government is willing to try interest arbitration as an option. If we come to a consensus, we have a fair, independent system to deliver an outcome that averts a strike, which is my primary concern at this point.”