Teachers union demanding Ford government return to the bargaining table

Feb 24 2020, 10:08 am

On Monday, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) urged the Ford government and its Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, to return to the bargaining table so agreements can be made by March 6.

The ETFO will begin its “Phase 6 Strike Protocol” on Wednesday, February 26, Sam Hammond, president of the union said in a statement.

“ETFO is asking the government to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate an agreement by Friday, March 6,” said Hammond. “The Ford government has an opportunity to ensure stability in elementary schools.”

If an agreement is not reached before the deadline it has set, the union says it will move onto the next phase of the work action.

“The safety and security of our students are of the utmost importance to this government. I hope that ETFO will work with school boards to ensure that the escalated work-to-rule measures do not risk student safety and security,” Lecce said in a statement. “That is why our government is squarely focused on getting a deal that ends the continuous escalation by teachers’ union leaders, so our kids remain in class.”

A Phase 6 Strike Protocol means that members of the teachers union will remain in schools and follow their regular teaching duties. But they will not fill in for absences that should be covered by supply teachers, upload any data related to assessments, and will not use their personal funds to pay for classroom-related expenses.

“During this phase of strike action, ETFO wants to highlight a long-standing concern, which is that teachers and educators have been filling in education funding gaps themselves by paying for classroom basics – books, paper, art supplies, technology, furniture, and so on – out of their own pockets,” Hammond said. “These are items that should be covered by the Ministry of Education and school boards, but aren’t.”

According to Hammond, teachers using their own money to ensure that students have what they need in the classroom is just another example of the lengths teachers take to improve student education.

Lecce said he will not increase compensation for teachers and enhancing what he considers “already generous benefits packages.” 

While salary compensation is on the bargaining table for the unions, other areas of concern for teachers are classroom size, expansion to online learning and funding cuts to special education.

The ETFO said members will also advocate around key education and bargaining issues at information pickets and online.

Hammond’s statement comes after the province-wide walkout on February 21, which saw 200,000 teachers represented by the four major Ontario unions strike all over Ontario.

Around 30,000 teachers protested in Queens Park.