A day after the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) held another one-day strike, and on the same week that his government is facing labour strife will all teachers unions province-wide, Premier Doug Ford told the media this morning that it’s still about the money, and it’s still about the union throwing its weight around.
“I think they don’t have good leadership at the head of the unions,” Ford said to reporters Thursday morning at Queen’s Park. The Premier was repeating talking points he made last week in a TV interview where he said that the friction with Ontario’s teachers is due to union leaders and not the teachers themselves.
“What I’m hearing from [teachers] is that they want to stay in the classroom and keep working,” Ford said on CP24. “And I differentiate between them and the heads of the unions.”
On the picket line in Guelph Wednesday, one teacher vehemently disagreed with the Premier’s analysis. He said he’s not striking for the union, he’s striking for his fellow teachers and their students.
“This isn’t being driven by union heads, this is being driven by us because we have concerns are going to affect our day-to-day job,” explained Scott Harris, the vice-president of the OSSTF teachers organized at College Heights. “We’re being organized by the [union] heads, but we’re not being driven by them. We’re all responding together, we’re reacting to the public, and the government says a lot of things, but they don’t always match up with what they’re actually doing.”
“The Premier should be focused on breaking this stalemate with a fair deal that addresses the concerns of students, parents and educators,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a media statement after the Premier made his comments. “But his remarks suggest he is unwilling to reverse the cuts at the heart of this dispute. ”
“I urge the Premier to go and meet teachers on the picket lines to understand why they are sacrificing their paycheque to protest his cuts,” Schreiner added.
That seems unlikely given Ford’s other comment about the dispute with teachers. “Make no mistake about it, this is about compensation,” he said.
“We’ve done extensive polling, and what our internal information is telling us is that roughly 60 per cent of parents understand the issue that we’re out here today to support and that is reasonable class sizes for kids,” explained Paul Rawlinson, the teacher bargaining unit president and the district president for OSSTF District 18.
“We’ve proposed a return to the 2018/19 staffing levels, which the government has rejected, and that means their position is basically let’s negotiate cuts together. We’re not interested in that,” Rawlinson added. “I think the Minister [of Education Stephen Lecce] has a problem because the polls are saying that parents are more in tune, more educated, and more aware of how the system works, and they know what the consequences are to their kids.”
In more positive news, Premier Ford announced Thursday morning that the Government of Ontario will be creating 57 new scholarships worth $10,000 each in honour of the 57 Canadian victims of the missile attack on Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 in Iran.
“Many of the victims were students and professors with bright futures, studying and teaching at Ontario universities and colleges, and contributing to the advancement of research in many life-changing fields,” Ford said. “We will honour their memories through these scholarships to recognize their incredible contributions to our communities.”
Schreiner released a statement to say that he appreciated the Government’s gesture to honour the families.
“It is essential that we find ways to honour the victims and keep their memories alive. It’s heartbreaking to lose so many bright thinkers and leaders in our communities,” Schreiner said. “These scholarships will ensure that the positive impact they were making on our post-secondary institutions will always be remembered.”
Two University of Guelph PhD students, Ghanimat Azhdari and Milad Ghasemi Ariani, and Guelph dentist Parisa Eghbalian along with her daughter Reera Esmaeilion, were among the victims on Flight 752.