Amidst tense contract negotiations, one provincial teachers’ union is issuing a challenge to Ontario Premier Doug Ford – asking the government to present its contract offer directly to educators and allow teachers to decide for themselves.
Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) tells CTV News Toronto the government has the ability, under the school boards collective bargaining act, to bypass union leadership and appeal directly to teachers.
“The employer side of the bargaining table can require my members to vote on what they’ve placed on the table,” Bischof said.
Under the province’s labour relations act, the government can force a one-time vote on its final contract offer once it’s been rejected by the union’s bargaining team.
“I challenge (Ford) to bring forward his class size increases, bring forward his mandatory e-learning,” Bischof said. “Send it to a vote and have my members vote on it and we’ll see whether or not I’m accurately representing the wishes of my members.”
Bischof’s challenge came in response to an interview with CP24 on Thursday in which Ford questioned whether OSSTF leadership has the full backing of its members.
“What I’m hearing from (teachers) is that they want to stay in the classroom and keep working,” Ford said. “And I differentiate between them and the heads of the unions.”
Bischof said while the union leadership doesn’t have “100 per cent support” teachers, the government is welcome to present its offer to educators.
“If they think that they’ve come to the point that my members would support it and somehow I’m the impediment to getting a deal – I challenge them to bring it forward.”
The ministry of education has yet to comment on the challenge.
When asked whether OSSTF leadership would present the government’s offer to public high school teachers Bischof said the union has “no history” of taking such a step.
“Our vote has always been to take a tentative contract agreement that we can recommend to them and this is certainly not something that we can recommend to them.”