No walkout imminent as labour negotiations expected to continue
Public school support staff in Ottawa voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike yesterday, but both sides in the labour negotiations believe classes won’t be disrupted any time soon.
Over 800 of 2,200 union members in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board voted more than 95 per cent in favour of strike action yesterday, setting the stage for educational assistants, school psychologists, computer techs, custodians and secretaries to walk off the job.
But Jack Jones, vice-president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said, “There are no immediate plans for a strike. Our plan, right now, is to go back to the table and to try to negotiate a deal.”
Still, a strike, if it comes, would likely mean classes would be suspended, he said.
“It would be very hard for the system to function if it got to that point,” Jones said. “We’re certainly not at that point, but if things were going great we wouldn’t be taking a strike vote either.”
Greg Laws, acting chair for the OCDSB, said the strike vote is an expected step in negotiations and it will not affect the process.
“We continue to look forward and work toward a settlement,” he said.
Jones chairs four bargaining teams representing various support staff and said the strike mandate is intended to pressure the board “for some meaningful negotiations.”
Three of the units have been without a contract since August 2007, and one has been without since August 2006. Negotiations hinge on job security, working conditions and salaries.
With a strike mandate, job action could follow. But mediation meetings are in the works.
Laws said the school board will not release its contingency plan for a strike. “At this point we expect to be working toward a settlement,” he said.
Percentages, by unit, of support staff in favour of a strike: