Education Minister frustrated with teachers, job action set for Thursday

Photo of a classroom

Ontario's Education Minister has expressed frustration with reaction from the province's teachers' unions to concessions on contract negotiations announced on Tuesday. 

Lecce announced Tuesday the government would back off demands for increased class sizes, sticking to 23 instead of an original proposal of 28, while mandatory e-learning would now be optional for students and their parents. 

Two of the unions said Tuesday's announcement was the first they had heard of the new proposal, as it hadn't been brought to the bargaining table, while planned job actions by teachers with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and french boards will go ahead Thursday. 

Lecce told CFRA Wednesday, what the province has announced should be enough to get a deal done now.

"Every time I've made a positive move, there's an impediment to progress," Lecce said. 

"They just can't accept the government is trying to move towards a deal." 

Speaking with CFRA on Tuesday, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation President Harvey Bischof called the remarks a stunt. 

"Why is he doing this at a press conference instead of at the bargaining table?" he asked, adding a "productive attempt to negotiate with teachers" would be a better approach.

Bischof said there's still a number of issues to work out, including the loss of over 1,000 teachers under the current framework from the government. 

Thursday's job action will continue as planned, with all Catholic elementary and secondary schools to be closed for a one-day strike, including in the Kingston-area. Students in the french school board in Kingston will also be off for the day on Thursday, while the Limestone District School Board is not affected. 

All four major teachers' unions have been without a contract since August and all are engaged in various job actions.