Public elementary school teachers ramping up job action in Halton

 

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) recently announced that it will be escalating its strike action after months of fraught negotiations with the province.

The ETFO says that starting Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, public elementary school educators will no longer supervise extra-curricular activities or participate in field trips. 

The union also says that if the government "refuses to address critical issues" in talks by Jan. 17, ETFO members will commence a full withdrawal of services strike on a rotating basis beginning Jan. 20.

The province's public secondary school teachers and Catholic elementary and secondary school teachers are also on work-to-rule. 

"In six months of contract talks, the [Doug] Ford government's education minister has given his negotiators no mandate to discuss anything other than cuts to education including a $150 million cut to public elementary education," said ETFO President Sam Hammond in a statement. 

"That's why there has been negligible progress on substantive issues like supports for Special Education, protecting the Kindergarten model, addressing classroom-based violence and compensation that keeps up with the cost of inflation."

Unions argue that cuts, increased class sizes, mandatory e-learning and lack of support to combat violence in schools are prompting job action. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, has argued that teachers are seeking unreasonable pay increases. 

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) has already held rotating, one-day strikes across the province. 

"This government's approach to education sector contract talks is a sham. The government representatives have confirmed that they have no mandate to negotiate issues beyond cuts. They have met with ETFO for a very limited time on each of the 22 days of bargaining since August making it obvious that there is no intention or ability for them to address serious issues affecting the education of elementary students and educators," Hammond said. 

"Contract talks are not being helped by Ford's Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, making public announcements that misrepresent what his team is doing at the bargaining table. The disconnect is so great that we're left shaking our heads." 

Hammond claims that Lecce says that there will be no changes to the Kindergarten model in public, but refuses to make that commitment during bargaining. 

"The Minister claims salary is the main sticking point in bargaining, yet it's been a topic that has received hardly any discussion over months of bargaining," Hammond said. 

As part of ETFO's updated work-to-rule action, educators will not arrive to work earlier than 30 minutes before the start of the instructional day and will leave within 15 minutes at the end of the instructional day. They will not plan or participate in any assemblies except to provide supervision to students.

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province.

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