Elementary teachers union plans job action Monday
ETFO president Sam Hammond. (Toronto Sun files)
Ontario’s elementary teachers have announced job action Monday — likely a work-to-rule campaign — but the province’s education minister says she isn’t even sure why their union left the bargaining table.
“Obviously my folks are at the central table,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said Tuesday. “It doesn’t seem to be just any one issue in particular; it just seems to be a general desire to have a strike.”
Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), said in an interview that he was “dumbfounded” by Sandals’s comment.
“We didn’t enter this process to ultimately go on strike,” he said. “It’s a number of issues on the table that we find offensive and will take the education system back and teachers’ professionalism back more than a decade, quite frankly.”
Almost eight months after the previous contract ended, negotiators have not yet addressed major monetary issues because the Kathleen Wynne government and school boards are insisting on micro-managing teachers, he said.
The government and boards have demanded more latitude to increase class sizes, direct how teachers use their preparation time and curtail the ability of educators to determine how to support student learning, ETFO says.
Citing an example of how ridiculously controlling the situation has become, Hammond said the other side won’t even agree to let occasional teachers have keys to classrooms, a safety necessity if the school goes into lockdown.
“It’s mind-boggling,” he said.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), which represents public high school teachers, has called full-on strikes in Sudbury, Peel and Durham.
Hammond said he’s still consulting with his members and details of their job action will be announced Friday.
Sandals said a note sent by ETFO to its members called for teachers to curtail administrative duties, but not extracurricular activities or regular classroom duties.
If that proves the course of action, then teachers would not participate in standardized EQAO testing or put comments on report cards.
For the high school students already out of class, the clock is ticking on whether their school year will be deemed to be in jeopardy, possibly forcing the provincial government into the uncomfortable position of legislating teachers back to work.
PC MPP Garfield Dunlop said the new teacher negotiating process, cemented in law by the Wynne government, has been a failure.
Sandals and Wynne need to take what is happening in school boards across the province more seriously, he said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said while the Liberal government has claimed to be the “education” party, “that was all a ruse.”