Ontario’s elementary teachers will be voting on whether they support strike action, as negotiations continue with the school boards and provincial government.
In a statement sent to the 83,000 members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), President Sam Hammond says “mass meetings” will be held this month and next to discuss key issues and find out levels of support for a strike.
In a telephone interview, Hammond said the union has no plans for job action at this point.
“We continue to be at the table, and will continue to be there,” Hammond said. “The discussions are respectful, and are going well so far.”
He said ETFO has “no intent to utilize or implement that strike vote in terms of a work-to-rule or a strike — this is simply to get a strong mandate from our members” and to affirm the union’s positions.
The sides have already met a few times and more dates are planned.
In his Wednesday statement to teachers, Hammond said “members will be asked to demonstrate their support for ETFO bargaining priorities that include more support for students with special needs, class size and class structure, the protection of full-day kindergarten and fair and transparent hiring practices.”
A central strike vote “is one part of the legal bargaining process under Ontario labour laws,” he said, adding that “ETFO’s goal is to reach an agreement at the central bargaining table without having to take job action. It is committed to continuing negotiations at the bargaining table until a fair and reasonable collective agreement can be reached for public elementary educators in Ontario.”
Contracts for teachers and staff in the province’s publicly funded education system ended in August. The Canadian Union of Public Employees’ school board unit, which represents 55,000 workers, has filed for a no-board report and is currently taking strike votes.
The earliest CUPE workers, including custodians, special education assistants and clerical staff, could be in a position for job action — a work-to-rule or strike — is the week of Sept. 23.
“Nobody wants to see an interruption to the school year — not teachers, education staff, unions, parents, students or even the Ford government,” said Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who urged Education Minister Stephen Lecce to “act on his new positive tone with a meaningful commitment to good faith negotiations.”
Get The Lead newsletter
Start getting your whip-smart guide to Canada’s 2019 federal election in your inbox.