Public school students in Grey and Bruce counties enjoyed a day off from school today.
And not because of the weather.
Bluewater District School Board schools were shut down as Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation members escalated job action by staging a one-day walk out, as negotiations between the union and province on a new collective agreement remain at an impasse.
The Bluewater Board was forced to close all of its elementary and high schools because its OSSTF employees are limited not to just high school teachers, but also educational assistants, early childhood educators and other education professionals.
Over 150 OSSTF members picketed outside of Owen Sound District Secondary School today, waving signs and flags.
OSSTF states that their concerns lay around job security for their support faculty, issues with larger class sizes as well as concerns with mandatory e-learning.
On the other side of the table, Ontario's Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has said the main point of contention in negotiations is compensation.
The union is reportedly seeking an inflationary wage increase of around two per cent, while the province will not exceed a one per cent increase in accordance with recent legislation it passed capping pay raises of public sectors workers at that amount for three years.
President of Bluewater District 7 of OSSTF Betty-Jo Radden says that members only want an increase that matches inflation rates but their main concerns lie elsewhere.
"We are just looking for inflationary protection. We just want to keep up with the cost of living," Radden states. "My members in Bluewater are very concerned with class sizes, I can say that."
Radden says that teacher layoffs and larger classes has limited the number of programs offered to students and 25 per cent of classes being overfilled.
She also claims 42 per cent of students who attempt e-learning do not complete the online class.
Students in the Bluewater District School Board will be back in classrooms Thursday, but it's unclear when OSSTF members may escalate their job action further if negotiations remain stalled with the Ontario government.