Ontario’s public high school teachers will launch a work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday, the same day as their elementary counterparts.
Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, told reporters at Queen’s Park on Thursday that the measures “will have no impact on students’ learning conditions whatsoever.”
They will include information pickets before and after school or at lunch, during which teachers will hand out pamphlets to parents and members of the public, but not to students.
Teachers will also refuse to take part in any provincial standardized tests, board or ministry professional development, or any after-hours staff meetings. They will provide only marks for any upcoming report cards.
The high school union and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario are in legal strike positions after receiving strong mandates from their members.
As with the secondary school teachers, the elementary teachers’ work-to-rule campaign will be largely administrative.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, which also saw overwhelming support for job action, has now applied for conciliation, putting it a step closer to a work to rule or strike.
And on Thursday, teachers in the province’s French-language boards announced they would conduct strike votes later next month.
“By holding a strike vote, the AEFO is not saying that it absolutely wants to go on strike,” said Remi Sabourin, president of the 12,000-member Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens. “But there has been no progress made over the last few negotiation meetings. It is time we find a way to move forward.”
The teachers unions also represent support and professional staff in some boards, and they will also take part in the job action.
Bischof said teachers would work to rule until the government “makes substantive offers” on the issues important to educators.
“I can’t give you a timeline,” he said. “If there’s no movement, we will be announcing another step in action at the appropriate time.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government is “continuing to be reasonable” and has made some movement on key issues while the high school teachers’ union has not.
The unions, he added, “should have some interest in demonstrating some reasonableness as well.”
Teacher unions are opposed to a number of government initiatives, including the move to bigger classes starting in Grade 4.
In high school, the province wants to boost the average size of classes to 25 students from last year’s 22, down from an original proposal of 28.
Moving to an average of 22.5 students this year has already led to fewer teachers in the system and more limited course options.
The government also wants to make two online courses mandatory for high school students.
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“This government has been trying to pick a fight with unions since day one,” said NDP education critic Marit Stiles.
Families, she added, are concerned because “the cuts the government is making are harmful.”
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Premier Doug Ford said, “It’s tough negotiations on both sides, but our goal — and I think, honestly, the union’s goal — is to make sure we keep the kids in class.”