Ontario elementary teachers on path to strike

ETFO president Sam Hammond. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun files)

Families of young children in school could soon be scrambling to make alternative child care arrangements.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced Thursday that its members will no longer supervise extra-curricular activities outside of regular school hours, beginning Monday.

And, if the government “refuses to address critical issues” in negotiations by Jan 17, ETFO will begin rotating strikes on Jan. 20.

ETFO President Sam Hammond insisted the government needs to get serious about the process of bargaining.

“They have made no movement on proposals,” Hammond said. “Dec. 19 — our last session at the table — the representative for the government … informed us that he, in fact, doesn’t have the authority or the mandate to bargain any of the key issues, proposals, that we have at the table.

“How insulting to our members and parents,” he said.

ETFO members had already withdrawn participation in EQAO preparation and Education Ministry-related administrative tasks.

The union represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province, and their absence from schools would likely mean parents would have to make other child-care arrangements.

Beginning Monday, ETFO members will not arrive more than 30 minutes before or leave more than 15 minutes after the instructional day.

Teachers will not plan or participate in assemblies except to supervise students, the union said.

ETFO will give parents at least five days notice of a strike, Hammond said.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has already held four rotating one-day strikes, and the members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) will withdraw from administrative duties Monday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said families have been facing union-initiated job action too often.

“Union leaders promised that their escalation would not impact students and their learning,” Lecce said in a statement. “Regrettably, they have again broken that promise; however, we will uphold our commitment to parents, to stay at the bargaining table and work as hard as it takes to reach a deal that keeps students in class.”

While the government has reached deals or tentative contracts with some educators, it has yet to come close to an agreement with the major unions representing teachers in the province.

Teacher representatives say government cuts to education funding are the main issue.

Lecce said if the demands of the OSSTF were spread across all unionized educators, it would cost taxpayers $7 billion over three years.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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