Thousands of Ontario teachers to walk off job Wednesday in one-day strike

TORONTO (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of teachers and support staff in Canada’s most populous province are poised to walk off the job on Wednesday in a one-day strike, part of escalating job action as talks failed to produce a tentative agreement with the government.

FILE PHOTO: People protest during a rally held by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) in support of teachers from Ontario's Peel, Durham, and Rainbow school boards who are on strike, at Queen's Park in Toronto, May 14, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

The strike, which is set to affect 40,000 high school teachers and 15,000 support staff, was the largest-scale for /*this group of Ontario teachers since 1997, said Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) President Harvey Bischof.

Among the sticking points are class sizes and the issue of mandatory online learning, as well as teacher compensation, which the government wants to increase by 1% annually while teachers want increases pegged to inflation.

“Our one-day job action will occur,” Bischof said in a late Tuesday tweet. He said in a separate statement on Tuesday that after four consecutive days at the table the government advanced not one proposal addressing major issues that affect the quality of education in Ontario.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce late on Tuesday urged the union to call off the strike. “The onus is on OSSTF to be reasonable,” he said.

“My message to parents on the eve of the potential job action is that our government has remained reasonable at the negotiating table, with the objective of keeping students in class,” Lecce said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The sides have been negotiating for more than 200 days and strike is estimated to affect around 600,000 students.

Bischof said the one-day strike is aimed at raising public attention on a government that has made cuts and wants to cut deeper.

“And then Thursday we’ll be back in schools with our students preparing for the government to moved forward. And if they don’t, we’ll be prepared to look at additional steps,” Bischof said.

Last week, Lecce noted the province had changed its offer, reducing classroom sizes, which now average 22.5, from 28 to 25 and reducing the number of mandatory online learning courses from four to two.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama