Ontario education unions work to block teachers’ struggle despite massive strike votes

The members of two of the four Ontario teacher unions that represent some 200,000 educators in Canada’s most populace province voted overwhelmingly to strike last month. As has been the case throughout the 14 months since teachers’ contracts expired at the end of August 2022, the principal concern of the union bureaucracies following the votes has been to block a strike.

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario protest in September [Photo: Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario]

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) teachers voted 95 percent in favor of a strike while Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) members voted 97 percent for strike action. The clear strike votes are an expression of teachers’ disgust at the status quo and their willingness to wage a genuine struggle to reverse the death by a thousand cuts to public education imposed by Progressive Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic Party (NDP) governments over the last 30 years that have created chaotic conditions in Ontario schools.

Earlier in October, Ontario high school teachers represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) voted in favor of a proposal negotiated in secret over the summer with the hard-right Ford government to accept binding arbitration and give up their right to strike. The vote expressed a lack of confidence among teachers in the union bureaucracy to wage any serious struggle against the government to win significant improvements in wages and conditions.

Teachers will have no opportunity to debate and vote on what the arbitrator decides. Their decisions are final and will be shoved down the throats of high school teachers.

The Ford government is determined to gut what remains of the social programs extended to workers following the Second World War in the face of bitter class battles. The ruling elite sees public education as an unacceptable deduction from the profits of the financial oligarchy in Canada who want to privatize education and make it something that is exclusive only to the upper-middle class and wealthy, while the working class gets poor quality education.

Massive cuts to education budgets over the next decade have already been planned by the Ford government under conditions where school buildings are dilapidated and there is a massive staff shortage.

This class war strategy is shared by all levels of government. The federal Trudeau Liberal government, which is backed by its trade union allies and propped up by the NDP, is the most vociferous advocate for public spending “restraint” to cover huge increases in military spending, the waging of wars in alliance with US imperialism, and the securing of Canadian capitalism’s “competitiveness” on the world stage.

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