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Ont. elementary teachers announce first phase of job action

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Sam Hammond (Toronto Sun Files)

Sam Hammond (Toronto Sun Files)

Ontario’s youngest students will be in class Monday but their teachers will withdraw from a number of “administrative” duties such as EQAO testing.

 Sam Hammond, president of the Ontario Elementary Teachers’ Federation, announced Friday that their members will begin a work-to-rule campaign Monday across Ontario.

Public elementary teachers will cover regular classroom duties and extracurricular activities as well as provide extra help for students who need it.

The union accused the Kathleen Wynne government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) of demanding concessions to teacher collective agreements that could lead to larger class sizes and undermine teacher professionalism.

“(The work-to-rule job action) will continue in its current form until these demands are withdrawn from the bargaining table or ETFO deems that further actions are required,” Hammond said.

Other unions representing teacher and educational staff share ETFO’s bargaining concerns, and a full-scale, province-wide strike could not be ruled out, Hammond said.

Education Minister Liz Sandals has said that ETFO has not identified any particular issue that led them to walk away from negotiations with the province, and she urged the union Friday to get back to the bargaining table.

Hammond said OPSBA, with the government at its side, has attempted to negotiate control over teacher preparation time and student assessments.

“After eight months at the bargaining table, I can tell you that it is entirely disingenuous for the education minister to plead ignorance of these serious issues,” he said. “Where has she been and is she not talking to her negotiators at that table.”

Sandals said she was pleased that students would be in class Monday, but expressed disappointment with the work-to-rule campaign and criticized ETFO for waiting until Friday afternoon to clarify what it meant by a strike.

“To say that this is merely an administrative work to rule I would strongly disagree with,” she said. “I would say that there are components of the work-to-rule that have a direct impact on students. And we don’t really think that’s fair.”

Although parents will get student grades, they won’t get the usual teacher comments that tell them their child’s strengths and weaknesses, she said.

The majority of parents support standardized testing, and EQAO results help the education ministry focus resources on struggling schools, so that boycott will also impact students, Sandals said.

The professional development to be shunned by teachers would have addressed math instruction, she said.

 What Parents Need To Know

•What to do on Monday: If you have children in the public elementary system, bring them to school as you would any Monday. The teachers will be in class but they are participating in “Phase 1” of a work-to-rule campaign.

•What teachers will do during their job action: Provide classroom instruction, cover extracurriculars, offer extra help to students, supervise school trips and events, hold parent-teacher meetings, submit student grades for report cards.

•What teachers won’t do: Take part in EQAO testing, put comments on report cards, participate in professional development, attend staff meetings or ministry meetings, meet with student work study teachers, conduct any reading, writing or math assessments other than those teachers deem necessary for personal student assessment, refuse work on annual learning plan projects and school improvement plans and a number of other programs.

•What a “Phase 2” job action could look like: Anything from cancelling extracurriculars, including proms and trips, up to a full strike that closes schools.

•What other teacher federations are doing: Three locals of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) are on strike — Sudbury, Durham, Peel — and four more could go on strike. Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has obtained a strong strike mandate from its members but no word yet on a walkout.

•Why this is happening: Bargaining between the Ontario government, the province’s school boards and the unions representing teachers and educational workers has not produced any deals after eight months without a collective agreement.

 

 

 

 


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