ETFO returns to table, OSSTF pauses strikes
By Sue Tiffin
Just before a media conference called by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario to announce Phase 7 of labour action, the union received formal notice from the mediator to resume central negotiations with the provincial government beginning March 11.
Rotating strike action is to re-commence March 23 after March Break, if an agreement between the union and government is not reached.
“ETFO has not been engaged in full withdrawal of services for the past two weeks,” said ETFO first vice-president Karen Campbell. “The Ford government missed a real opportunity to get back to the table in that time. Let’s be clear; ETFO has been ready to resume negotiations since February. ... The minister now has an opportunity to avoid further disruption by reaching a fair deal with ETFO prior to March 23. If these talks are unsuccessful, ETFO will resume rotating strike action on the Monday following March Break.”
In this last week prior to March Break, ETFO members are advised by the union to continue to picket outside of their schools, inviting parents to join them; make personal phone calls to Conservative MPPs to discuss the impact of the Ford cuts and send letters to the executive council of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association to highlight key bargaining issues.
Issues important to ETFO include protecting the kindergarten program, teacher compensation, smaller class sizes, and resources for students with special needs.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation announced March 6 a pause in rotating strikes until March 27.
“Our intent has always been to minimize the impact our labour actions have on students,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof in a press release. “With so many student events planned around and during March Break, we feel that a pause in our strike actions is appropriate at this time.”
A limited withdrawal of administrative services in secondary schools by OSSTF members that has been in place since Nov. 26 will continue, with further sanctions taking place beginning March 9, including that OSSTF members will not provide anything other than a mark and learning skills on a formal or interim report card; participate in curriculum or course writing; engage in any work-related email or phone calls outside of the regular instructional day or paid work day; keep employer-owned electronic devices turned on beyond the end of the work day unless paid overtime; provide setup/tear down for community functions unless paid; prepare or make bank deposits, pick up/deliver mail outside of regular work hours or supervise students sent to the office for discipline.
“The expanded sanctions will have a minimal impact on the learning environment, while continuing to draw attention to the government’s cuts to education and the lack of progress in bargaining,” reads the March 6 press release.
ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. OSSTF has more than 60,000 members across Ontario, and OSSTF District 15 includes public high school teachers, occasional teachers, and about two dozen professional support personnel including social workers, speech language pathologists, and psychometrists.
Rotating one-day strikes involving the county’s high school, alternate education centre, and elementary schools have taken place over the past several weeks. Issues identified by the OSSTF as important in their negotiations include class sizes, mandatory e-learning, and teacher compensation.
For updates or more information, visit tldsb.ca/labour-updates.