WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is set to begin work-to-rule job action on Nov. 26.
“We’ll withdraw from ministry and school board administrative activities,” local ETFO president Gundi Barbour told the Advertiser. “That means that teachers will have more time to focus on working with students.
“The idea is that we can (turn the) heat up on premier (Doug) Ford and (Minister of Education) Stephen Lecce and then they’ll come to the contract talks prepared to address the real issues and concerns.”
Those concerns include more supports for students with special needs, protection of the kindergarten program and critical issues like addressing violence in schools.
Services expected to be withdrawn next week by the ETFO, which has been without a collective agreement since Aug. 31, will include:
– attending meetings;
– participation in professional learning or training;
– completion and filing of report cards; and
– responding to emails.
“It is disappointing that ETFO has decided to escalate to a partial withdrawal of services, which hurts our kids, despite a limited number of outstanding items at the table,” Lecce said in a media release on Nov. 14.
However, Barbour wants to ensure parents know the strike action is not aimed at them or students, but “toward the government and school boards. And it is not our intention to affect student learning or safety.”
Lecce disagreed, saying strike action will inevitably hurt students.
“I stand with parents who know that labour action by unions hurts our students, and we will work to ensure students remain in the classroom,” he said.
“As I have always said, my negotiating team stands ready for meaningful, good faith bargaining 24/7, to reach the deals Ontario students and families deserve.”
Barbour said ETFO officials will continue to negotiate.
“If we’re getting somewhere, if things are responding, then there’s no need to continue or to escalate for that matter,” she said.
However, Barbour added it’s unlikely an agreement will be reached prior to Nov. 26 because not many negotiation days are scheduled.
“The government really has left us no choice except to take some action, because we need a better deal to improve working conditions and thereby student learning conditions,” Barbour said.
Central contract talks have been taking place since June, when ETFO tabled its concerns.
The ETFO represents elementary teachers and occasional teachers in the Upper Grand District School Board.
On Nov. 18 Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) members voted in favour of strike action should it become necessary. OSSTF education workers voted 92 per cent in favour of strike action, and teacher and occasional teacher members voted 95.5% in favour of a strike mandate.
OSSTF has not yet announced any job action.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association announced on Nov. 13 its members voted 97% in favour of strike action.
“The message we have sent to the government is loud and clear: Catholic teachers will not accept any agreement that would be detrimental to learning and working conditions in our schools,” said Liz Stuart, OECTA president in a press release on Nov. 13.
“The government will try to portray this as teachers escalating tensions, but the reality is they have created this situation by continuing to pursue their reckless cuts to education.”
OECTA members are not yet in a legal strike position.
On Nov. 18 OECTA filed a request with the Minister of Labour to have a conciliator appointed to assist in collective bargaining.