Elementary teachers to escalate work action

Article content

The union representing over a thousand local elementary teachers plans to escalate its strike action on Monday.


Story continues below

Article content

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), whose teachers have been participating in work-to-rule strike action since Nov. 26, will no longer supervise extra-curricular activities or participate in field trips if they don’t reach a deal with the province before Jan. 13.

They also announced that if they can’t reach a deal before Jan. 17, teachers will “commence a full withdrawal of services strike on a rotating basis” beginning Jan. 20.

In a press release issued Thursday, the union says it was prompted to escalate the work action because it is “faced with a government that continues to demand cuts to elementary education and refuses to address key issues affecting students and educators.”

Erin Blair, president of the Upper Canada local, says there has been “minuscule” progress in the talks with the Ministry of Education so far, but not enough for the union to back off its fight to defend public education.

“Personally, I find it exceptionally frustrating that the government has not engaged ETFO in bargaining,” Blair said on Thursday.

“It shouldn’t have gotten to this point, but with the government just not discussing anything of any consequence, it’s gotten to this point, unfortunately.”

The escalation in work action comes after six months of failed talks between the union and the province.

ETFO’s collective agreement expired on Aug. 31 of this year, and the two sides have been trying to come to an agreement since.


Story continues below

Article content

Some of the key issues causing an impasse between the two sides, according to the union, include supports for special education, growing class sizes and structure, the eradication of school-based violence, fair and transparent hiring practices, and preservation of the current kindergarten program.

Blair said the issue of school-based violence is of particular concern, and one he didn’t expect the government to push back on since it has nothing to do with money.

“To not even deal with something as fundamental as people being safe, it’s pathetic really,” he said.

“That’s not just a worker issue, that’s an issue affecting students. It’s the atmosphere of a place. If there’s school-based violence, it impacts everyone.”

In Leeds and Grenville, ETFO represents 1,150 teachers at the Upper Canada District School Board.

When the work-to-rule measures were put in place in November, those local teachers were ready and willing to stand up to potential government cutbacks, Blair said at the time.

Now, he said, they’re even more motivated.

“(Local teachers) hear the utterances coming from the minister of education, and that just irritates people even more because they know the reality, and to paint them as people only looking out for their salaries and benefits is just not right,” Blair said.

“It’s incorrect. It’s undermining the profession in some ways. It’s painting the wrong picture, and that’s not helpful.”

Part of ETFO’s updated work-to-rule action includes the stipulation that educators will not arrive to work earlier than 30 minutes before the start of the school day and will leave within 15 minutes at the end of the day.

They will also not plan or participate in any assemblies except to provide supervision to students.

Ministry officials had yet to respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Latest National Stories


Story continues below

News Near Brockville

This Week in Flyers