By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 14 2019
Elementary school teachers are not participating in field trips or supervising extra-curricular activities in order to demonstrate their frustration with contract talks with the provincial government.
On Monday Jan. 13 members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario which includes all of the elementary schools in Haliburton County escalated their job action.
Additionally ETFO indicated that rotating strikes would commence beginning Jan. 20 if critical issues were not addressed by the government by Jan. 17.
“In six months of contract talks the Ford government’s education minister has given his negotiators no mandate to discuss anything other than cuts to education including a $150-million cut to public elementary education” said ETFO president Sam Hammond in a statement. “That’s why there has been negligible progress on substantive issues like supports for special education protecting the kindergarten model addressing classroom-based violence and compensation that keeps up with the cost of inflation.”
ETFO members will also arrive to work no earlier than 30 minutes before the start of instruction and will leave within 15 minutes following the end of the instructional day.
“Contract talks are not being helped by Ford’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce making public announcements that misrepresent what his team is doing at the bargaining table. The disconnect is so great that we’re left shaking our heads” Hammond said. “Minister Lecce claims in public that there will be no changes to the kindergarten model but refuses to make that commitment during bargaining. The minister claims salary is the main sticking point in bargaining yet it’s been a topic that has received hardly any discussion over months of bargaining.”
Lecce responded to ETFO’s escalation last week by calling on union leaders to back down. “Union leaders promised that their escalation would not impact students and their learning. 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” he said in a statement on Jan. 9.
“We have delivered a ratified deal and most recently a tentative deal with education unions to date and we are working to deliver further agreements that achieve our priority of keeping students in class.”
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has also been putting pressure on the province following fruitless negotiations. Following the announcement of another one-day rotating strike Lecce reiterated that students should be in class.
“It is most concerning that teacher unions’ leaders disagree and continue to impede learning for the next generation. Our government is focused on landing deals that keep students in class so that we end the frustrating experience families face due to predictable union escalation” he said. “This continued strike action is unfair to students and their families.”
OSSTF members at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School and the alternate education centre participated in two one-day strikes in December but are not scheduled to participate in the Jan. 15 one-day action.
High school teachers will also not be supervising EQAO standardized testing which the Trillium Lakelands District School Board said would require adjustments.
“Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) will not be able to administer the Grade 9 EQAO math assessment without teacher supervision” a labour update on the school board’s website reads. “The Grade 9 EQAO math assessment will be postponed for all TLDSB secondary schools until normal circumstances prevail. As this will impact final mark calculations for students the final 30 per cent of Grade 9 math marks will be a combination of a culminating activity and the final exam as per the Ministry of Education Growing Success document.”
OSSTF has said it opposes the province’s move to increase class sizes and institute mandatory e-learning. They’ve also asked for cost-of-living increases which Lecce has said would be prohibitively expensive.