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Centre Dufferin District High School staff participate in one-day class walkout

December 12, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By PETER RICHARDSON

On any given day, people rarely give  much thought to teachers. They are those hidden men and women who help educate, alongside the educational assistants, the children of our world. 

These are the people who allow parents to go to work and not have to worry about what their children are going to be doing, without them, for the day. But last week, for one day, parents had to think a lot about teachers, because they were not in school. Last Wednesday (Dec. 4), the OSSTF, the union that represents secondary school teachers and support workers, called a one day strike, in their ongoing negotiations, for a new contract with the Ford government. The current contract expires on Dec. 31, 2019.

Doug Steele, along with Tara DeBrouwer, was a strike captain for the teachers, educational student support personnel/early childhood educators, occasional teachers, office clerical and technical staff and professional student services personnel at Centre Dufferin District High School, and he took the time to explain the strike action from the picket lines in Natasha Paterson Memorial Park. The OSSTF has been trying to negotiate a new contract since early summer, but has not felt that the government has the students’ best interests at heart. 

The issues of class size and e-classes, as well as tech class safety, are main concerns for the teachers, whose primary considerations are for the safety of their students. When asked, Mr. Steele explained that in as much as money is concerned, teachers are only asking for their cost of living increase, which has not been received for several contracts. This amounts to 2 percent. He insisted that the government figure of $1.5 billion dollars was hugely inflated, and that the true cost, according to the union was closer to $200 million.

On the issue of a fair deal for students, the concerns ran much deeper. Class sizes are a major one, with the union wanting the status quo to be maintained and the government demanding an increase. 

On the service, this is not a seemingly major consideration, but from a teacher’s point to view it is huge. More students in a class translates into less one-on-one time with the teacher, individually. It allows less time for teachers to help students who are being challenged by the work, and puts more demands on the support workers as well. The government wants to remove the class size caps that are in place, and, for the OSSTF, this a move backwards.

The subject of e-classes is another point of contention. By increasing the number of e-learning components from two to four, the effect is enormous. In CDDHS for example, it will mean approximately 200 students will require not only space, but computers to achieve their 4 classes. This will require teachers to oversee the classes as well as answer any questions that arise. 

Doug emphasized that where both the computers and the space will come from has not been discussed as yet. Also, school boards are dealing with budgetary issues of their own and are not overflowing with surplus teaching staff and computer hardware. A natural assumption would be that the government will supply the hardware required and ultimately the teachers and staff, but at what cost to the taxpayer?

Janet Price has been an Educational Assistant for 30 years, she will retire at the end of the current contract and took time to speak to the fact that this contract negotiation is not only about teachers. All the support staff are involved in and governed by this contract. The public needs to see that there are many more workers than just the teachers who are OSSTF members and who depend on the school system for their livelihoods.

The public response has been supportive of the strike in general said Doug Steele. The strikers have been careful not to block the sidewalks or roads and with the odd exception the public have been positively receptive to the strike action. Because the government has not been bargaining in good faith recently, the OSSTF felt the strike was needed to try and alert the public to the issues and to encourage the government to return to the bargaining process. Whether you support unions or not, they are a fact of life and at times a necessary component of fair labour practices, especially with large organizations such as governments. No one wants to be on strike, they want to be able to do their jobs and support their families and in the end provide our students with the education they deserve and require to do the same.



         

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