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London high school teachers hold information pickets amid 1-day strike

Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation gather for an information picket outside of Saunders Secondary School.
Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation gather for an information picket outside of Saunders Secondary School. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) held information pickets outside public high schools in London on Wednesday amid a one-day strike taking place elsewhere in the province.

As of midnight on Wednesday, OSSTF-represented workers engaged in a full withdrawal of services from nine school boards, not including the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), which governs all public high schools in London.

READ MORE: Ontario high school teachers, education workers at 9 boards hold another 1-day strike

The pickets aimed to shed light on issues facing the OSSTF at the bargaining table as contract talks continue to stall with the Ontario government.

Mandatory online courses and increased class sizes have been sticking points for the union, but Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the main issue in the talks is compensation, with the government recently passing legislation to cap annual wage increases for all public-sector workers at one per cent for three years.

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Horns honked as vehicles passed by as dozens of unionized teachers gathered outside Saunders Secondary School in west London, braving the cold Wednesday morning weather.

OSSTF’s Thames Valley District president John Bernans told Global News the information pickets are also intended to be a show of solidarity for fellow union members on strike.

“I’m so proud of our members. They’re really focused on trying to get to a spot where these cuts get rolled back,” Bernans said.

“They are really focused on the quality of education in Ontario; I only wish the government was as focused as we are.”

OSSTF Thames Valley District president John Bernans joins an information picket outside Saunders Secondary School on Wednesday.
OSSTF Thames Valley District president John Bernans joins an information picket outside Saunders Secondary School on Wednesday. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

Wednesday’s information pickets follow a schedule that will have no impact on students, with teachers holding 20-minute pickets before the morning bell, during school lunch breaks and after school ends for the day.

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“The rest of the [school day], they’re going to be doing their regular jobs delivering the quality education that they do every day,” Bernans said.

READ MORE: Tentative deal reached between province, Educational Workers’ Alliance of Ontario

Wednesday’s strike marks the latest job action amid rising education tension in the province, as the Ontario government works to hammer out new deals following the expiration of contracts in August.

On Tuesday, the province announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the Educational Workers’ Alliance of Ontario, one of several unions currently in labour negotiations with the government.

Meanwhile, Harvey Bischof, president of OSSTF, said the union and the government have not held contract talks since last week.

— With files from Global News’ Nick Westoll