FERGUS – The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action and asked for a “no board” report.
However, as local ETFO president Gundi Barbour told the Advertiser, that does not mean teachers are imminently walking out of the classroom.
“Striking does not mean walking a picket line, it doesn’t mean we’re out in front of Ted Arnott’s office,” Barbour said. “It can mean any kind of job action, which can be work to rule, which could be not completing report cards or parts of report cards, it could be not doing some of the paperwork that is a ministry requirement.”
The strike vote took place across Ontario on Nov. 1 and applies to the central bargaining unit, where ETFO representatives were talking to government officials about aspects of contracts that apply to the 83,000 ETFO members across Ontario. The aspects discussed at the central bargaining table could be preparation time, salary, supervision, etc. Barbour said.
“While our government has been a reasonable and constructive force at the bargaining table – focused on keeping kids in class – today, ETFO has taken another escalating step towards a strike which will disproportionately hurt our kids,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education said in an online statement about the vote on Nov. 1.
“Strike action caused by unions could mean school closures, disruption, and uncertainty for students and parents.
“I support a deal, not a strike. Our team remains unequivocal in our determination to land deals with our labour partners as soon as possible to keep our kids in the classroom.”
However, on Nov. 4 ETFO representatives requested a “no board” report after a conciliation meeting between ETFO representatives, school board bargaining agencies and the government were unsuccessful.
“They’re asking ETFO to agree to (up to) $150 million in cuts to elementary education,” Barbour said. “ETFO specifically.”
A request for a “no board” report takes ETFO one step closer to strike action Barbour explained and could take two days to a week or so to be granted.
“Our members are prepared to walk,” Barbour said. “They want to send a strong message to the government that they’re willing to take whatever steps are necessary to support students and to protect public education in Ontario.”
She said some of the areas of concern include:
– cuts to education funding;
– class size;
– student supports like access to social workers and psychiatrists;
– lack of special education support; and
– changes to the full-day kindergarten model.
Barbour said ETFO is hopeful talks will continue with the government.
ETFO has not yet begun local bargaining with the Upper Grand District School Board.
OSSTF and OECTA
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) is currently holding strike action votes which are scheduled to conclude by Nov. 15.
OSSTF has also asked for a “no board” report.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) have a strike vote scheduled for Nov. 12 and 13.