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Elementary teachers in legal strike position May 10

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

The Ontario government remains “hopeful” that negotiations will help avert an elementary teachers strike that threatens to cancel classes next week for 817,000 public school kids, Education Minister Liz Sandals says.

There could be some negotiations going on with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) this week prior to the possible strike date, she said Monday.

“We’re quite hopeful that we’ll get back to the table with ETFO,” Sandals said.

High school teachers with the Peel District School Board were the latest to hit the picket lines Monday, with strikes already underway by Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) locals in Durham and Sudbury.

ETFO will be in a legal strike position Sunday, and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association has a strong strike mandate from its members, who work in the separate school system.

PC MPP Garfield Dunlop said he’s pessimistic about the government’s chance of avoiding a full-scale strike by elementary teachers, leaving parents scrambling to make alternative arrangements.

“It’s going to almost be an impossibility,” Dunlop insisted. “The minister’s got this kind of a two-tier train wreck bargaining system ... if we look towards next Monday I think there’s a really good chance we’ll probably see 817,000 elementary school students out of the classroom.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath added she’s also concerned about the escalating strikes, and said it’s up to Sandals to resolve this situation.

The Durham school board was able to submit interim marks to post-secondary institutions prior to the strike, as have the boards in Sudbury and Peel. The students at all three boards are on an equal footing with the rest of the province’s students, Sandals said.

The province’s teachers have been without a collective agreement since the beginning of this school year.

Negotiations at the “central” or provincial table — where major financial parts of the collective agreement are supposed to be ironed out — are not going well, the OSSTF warned.

“We have been making a concerted effort to move these talks forward, but the management team refuses to recognize the professional judgment of our members and continues to threaten the learning conditions of Ontario students by tabling proposals that will lead to larger class sizes,” OSSTF president Paul Elliott said in a statement. “At this point, no further bargaining dates have been scheduled.”

 

School’s out: For students at the Peel District School Board, the Rainbow District School Board and the Durham District School Board.

Out of class: Almost 70,000 public high school students in Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon, Sudbury, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering, Oshawa and the townships of Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog.

Who’s up next: Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents elementary public school teachers across the province, is in a legal strike position on May 10. OSSTF, which represents public high school teachers, could call strikes at Halton, Ottawa-Carleton, Waterloo and Lakehead school boards.

What the ETFO says: “The world’s best education systems give highly-skilled teachers the professional autonomy they need to provide the best learning possible for their students. How can school board administrators, who are not in the classroom, know better than teachers how to manage classrooms? ETFO’s priority remains achieving a negotiated settlement that meets our members’ needs and respects our members’ professionalism — but we are considering our options.” — ETFO president Sam Hammond.

What the school boards says: “The world our students learn in continues to change dramatically and incorporates issues such as teaching and learning in a digital world, children and youth mental health and well-being, equity and inclusion, and safety. Yet our staffing and workload provisions have not kept pace. Collective agreements are still founded upon the traditional classroom and need to be dynamic.” — Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA).

What the Ontario government says: “It’s not about taking a hard line. It’s about trying to work collectively together for the benefit of all concerned.” — Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

Tip: Parents and students should check their local school board’s website for posted material that will allow students of all grades to continue working on the curriculum. — Education Minister Liz Sandals.

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca


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