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Parents warned to expect elementary teachers strike

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

ETFO president Sam Hammond. (Toronto Sun files)

ETFO president Sam Hammond. (Toronto Sun files)

Toronto - 

Parents of children in public elementary schools are being warned to expect everything up to a full-blown teachers’ strike Monday.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETF0), said the nature of the job action will be announced Friday.

“While media reports suggest that this strike action will include a partial withdrawal of service (work-to-rule), ETFO has not indicated what it and its members intend to do,” a note from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to parents says. “It is important to know that in the event of a full strike by teachers ... it will be necessary for the TDSB to close all elementary and junior high schools to elementary students, kindergarten to Grade 8, as we will not be able to operate a safe learning environment.”

A notice sent out to ETFO members mentioned the possibility of an “administrative” work-to-rule campaign in which schools would stay open but teachers would not participate in EQAO standardized testing and professional development, nor provide comments on student report cards.

Teachers with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) are already off the job in Peel, Durham and Sudbury, with more local strikes possible.

The province’s educators have been without a contract since Aug. 31.

Talks between the Ontario government and both ETFO and OSSTF are stalled.

Negotiations are still continuing with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), but its members have given it a strong strike mandate. French language teachers’ unions are also still at the table.

Education Minister Liz Sandals, who startled ETFO Tuesday by claiming it appears to want a strike, continued to insist that the union has presented no one issue as the catalyst for a walkout.

Hammond called the province’s offer “offensive,” a criticism the minister shrugged off.

”Unions call pretty much any offer offensive until we get to the one we agree on,” she said. “That’s typical bargaining language. It doesn’t particularly distress me.”

Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop said Sandals should resign as minister because she has lost control of collective bargaining, blaming first local school boards and now teacher federations for the impasse.

“As of Monday, there’s going to be almost a million students impacted by some kind of labour (action) either withdrawal or strike,” Dunlop said. “I’m seeing absolutely no progress whatsoever.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said provincial cuts to the education budget are the real reason for the school strife.

Sandals responded in the Ontario legislature, saying her government has dramatically ramped up spending on education.

 

TEACHERS’ PET PEEVES...

“Our teachers know that what has been proposed goes far beyond demands for a wage freeze. The employer side is using the economy as the excuse to take back everything OECTA has gained in bargaining, locally and provincially, for decades. This includes provisions that recognize teachers’ professional judgment and fair hiring practices.”

  • James Ryan, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)

“What’s important to realize is that the government and OPSBA (Ontario Public School Boards’ Association) want to layer on more bureaucracy into the education system, and compromise the ability of teachers to do what’s best for our students. OPSBA wants the ability to determine how teachers teach. The person in the education system who knows your child best — your child’s teacher — would no longer be able to develop an instructional plan based on your child’s specific abilities and needs. That doesn’t make any sense when it comes to what’s best for students.”

  • Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

“At the moment, seven teacher bargaining units are taking the lead to once again fight for our right to negotiate our class sizes and to manage our work day and to receive fair wages.”

  • Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

 

AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE NEGOTIATING TABLE...

“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 to address declining enrolment, equity and inclusion, application of technology and the pace with which the world is changing in our schools and society.”

  • Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA)

“The only way we’re going to end either the local strikes at secondary or the provincial strike at elementary is by negotiating solutions. We can’t negotiate solutions if there aren’t people at the table to negotiate.”

  • Education Minister Liz Sandals.

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca

 

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