Teachers begin work-to-rule
By Jenn Watt
Elementary and secondary school teachers commenced their work-to-rule action on Tuesday, saying the province has failed to address key issues raised during negotiations.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation both announced that Nov. 26 would be the first day of job action, which will include pulling back from some administrative duties.
OSSTF, representing high school teachers, said it has begun a “limited withdrawal of services that will affect government or school board initiatives only.”
Members will not participate in EQAO standardized testing, submit Ministry of Education data reports, attend unpaid staff meetings outside the regular school day, provide comments on report cards, or perform the work of another bargaining unit.
“We’re disappointed to be at this point, but despite [Minister of Education] Stephen Lecce’s repeated claims of good faith bargaining, the Ford government continues to use their legislative power to impose increased class sizes and limitations on salary,” said Colin Matthew, local OSSTF president, in a press release. “These cuts are negatively affecting our students through bigger classes, less individual attention, fewer course options and more combined [classes].”
Members of OSSTF District 15, which represents about 400 secondary school teachers and occasional teachers as well as 25 student support professionals, will be distributing information about the negotiations over the next week and have planned to picket at MPP Laurie Scott’s office in Lindsay and MPP Norm Miller’s office in Bracebridge. The union says the pickets will not affect the regular school day.
ETFO, representing elementary school teachers, occasional teachers and other education professionals, said that they’ve entered “Phase 1” of their work-to-rule action, similarly withdrawing from Ministry of Education and school board activities, while continuing their work in the classroom.
“ETFO wants the Ford government to work with us on important issues but, so far, it has not shown much interest in doing that,” said Sam Hammond, ETFO president, in a press release. “Our members are getting impatient and they are taking strike action because it seems to be the only way to get this government’s attention.”
Hammond said that the union and the government are “very far apart on many substantive items” and specifically called out the government for planning cuts to elementary education. He said that school-based violence and class sizes are issues that must be addressed.
In Minden, teachers met outside Archie Stouffer Elementary School on Tuesday morning before the school day began to march into the school together.
Responding to the first day of work-to-rule, Minister Stephen Lecce reiterated that he’s committed to finding an agreement that is acceptable to both the provincial government and the union members.
“I’ve been clear – I want to get deals that keep children of this province in school,” he said in a statement.
“The government has remained a consistent and reasonable force at the negotiating table, trying to reach a deal that provides certainty and predictability to parents, students, and educators. As evidenced by the voluntarily negotiated agreement with CUPE, I know we can get there through working together in good faith, so that students remain in class,” he said. “My negotiating team stands ready for meaningful, good-faith bargaining 24/7, to reach the deals Ontario students and families deserve. There is a path to a deal, and it requires all parties to be reasonable and fair and put the needs of our children first.”