Ontario’s elementary school teachers will not fill out report cards or attend staff meetings as part of job action that will begin this month.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the province’s largest education union, with 83,000 members, said on Thursday that its work-to-rule strike action will begin Nov. 26 and targets ministry and school board administrative tasks, and not those that affect students.
Sam Hammond, president of ETFO, said the goal was to “turn up the heat” on contract negotiations. The union said the government has failed to respond to key issues in bargaining, such as supports for students with special needs and protecting the province’s kindergarten program model with a teacher and an early childhood educator in the classroom.
ETFO says it is withdrawing a number of services. It plans to not participate in any school board activities on professional activity days and not complete first-term report cards, instead submitting to principals a list of students’ marks and “one brief comment per frame” for children in kindergarten.
“What we hope it will accomplish is that the government will come to the table and get serious and start to address some of the proposals we have around student learning conditions and our members’ working conditions," Mr. Hammond said in an interview.
Contracts for all education unions expired Aug. 31.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Thursday that it was “disappointing” to hear that ETFO had decided to withdraw some services. He described the outstanding items at the bargaining table as “limited." ETFO disputed this and said the government has not responded to a number of its proposals.
Mr. Lecce said in a statement that the government and school boards’ association "have continued to table reasonable and expanded offers through the negotiation process, with only one interest in mind: landing a deal that keeps our kids in class."
ETFO’s planned job action could escalate if talks between the parties don’t move forward. Mr. Hammond said bargaining dates are scheduled for next week.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which represents 55,000 high-school teachers and support workers, is conducting strike votes and, assuming it’s given a mandate to do so, will be in a legal strike vote next week. Like ETFO, the OSSTF recently received a no-board report by a conciliator, which basically starts a 17-day countdown to be in a legal strike position.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said this week that 97.1 per cent of its members voted in favour of strike action. The union, however, is not in a legal strike position and negotiations continue.
The work-to-rule by ETFO and the threat of job action by the other unions comes as the provincial government passed legislation last week capping public-sector wage increases to 1 per cent a year. The unions have said that the legislation undermines the bargaining process and they are considering legal options.
The union representing education support workers, including caretakers and educational assistants, recently ratified a three-year deal that would see salary increases of 1 per cent a year over three years.