Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday February 4, 2020
Ford blames union leaders again as teachers plan week of walkouts
Ontario Premier Doug Ford again dismissed the widespread walkouts planned this week by the province’s three largest teacher unions as a matter of union bosses forcing their beleaguered members to march against their will.
“They’re getting frustrated that the heads of their unions are forcing their teachers to walk out,” Premier Ford said in Wiarton on Sunday morning, insisting he has teachers telling him they don’t want to strike. “I have had numerous texts from teachers saying ‘I don’t want to be doing this.’”
Negotiations between Ford’s government and the unions have seen little progress since the summer, as he is asking all unions to accept larger class sizes, a hard one-percent cap on wage increases, and two mandatory e-learning courses for all secondary students.
His argument that union leadership is forcing teachers to engage in strike action flies in the face of strike votes held by all three unions, where between 95 and 98 per cent of members in each union voted in favour of strike action.
“I support the frontline teachers I think the men and women who are serving out there work their backs off, they do a great job,” Ford said. “I don’t support the heads of the unions who are causing all these problems right across the province.”
Ford said he takes his tone from what hears from the public, and said that all over Ontario, people keep telling him “don’t buckle” to the teachers, who are asking for wage increases in line with inflation.
For their part, the unions say they are acting in the interests of students and the public is behind them.
Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) President Harvey Bischof said on Sunday that he is “convinced” his members want to engage in strike action, and if Ford feels they’re being forced, he has things he can do to find out.
“If he believes I am the impediment to a deal, he has the right to put a vote directly to my members, to require them to vote on his offer. So let’s see if his offer of reduced course options, larger classes and mandatory e-learning are things my members are willing to accept.”
The three largest teacher’s unions in the province are planning strikes that will impact some or all of the GTA’s school boards every single day this coming week. (CTV)