Ontario Premier Doug Ford says poor leadership among teachers’ unions is to blame for the protracted labour dispute gripping the province’s education system.
During a news conference Thursday at Queen’s Park, Ford said union leaders have been stubbornly unwilling to negotiate.
“I think they don’t have good leadership at the head of the unions,” he told reporters, adding that he differentiates between teachers and their union leaders.
Each of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions are now in various states of escalated job action, ranging from rotating strikes to work-to-rule campaigns. They are all in legal strike positions.
Unions say the government isn’t negotiating in good faith, nor has it done enough to address their concerns about a wide range of issues including class size, mandatory e-learning and compensation.
A coalition unions have also launched legal challenges over the Ford government’s plan to cap public sector wage increases to one per cent annually, below the rate of inflation.
Ford said the unions are primarily concerned about wages, not the proposed changes that would affect learning inside the classroom.
“Make no mistake about it, this is about compensation,” he said.
When asked if Ontario would consider salary increases above one per cent, Ford flatly responded: “No.”
Ontario has partially walked back its planned increase to class sizes, but Ford said proposals to introduce mandatory e-learning will remain because “that’s the way of the future”.
“We’re confident we’ll get a deal and things will be back to normal, hopefully sooner than later,” Ford added.
On Wednesday, the government announced it would financially compensate parents with children affected by rotating strikes. Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, called the move an “insane bribe” meant to win the battle of public opinion.