Elementary, high school teachers to start work-to-rule campaigns Tuesday

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TORONTO — Ontario’s public elementary and high school teachers start work-to-rule campaigns Tuesday, as they say months of contract talks have produced little progress.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation say their members will start withdrawing some administrative services, such as putting comments on report cards, attending certain meetings and participating in standardized testing.

“Parents can expect to see absolutely nothing change in terms of the quality of their children’s learning environment,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof.

High school teachers will also be holding information pickets to distribute information to parents, but will not impede access to schools, Bischof said. Elementary teachers will be gathering outside the main entrances of schools 15 minutes before class Tuesday and entering together in what their union is calling a solidarity action.

OSSTF has talks scheduled with the province Wednesday and Thursday this week, and escalating the strike after that point is possible, Bischof said.

“We don’t have infinite patience with this,” he said. “The government unilaterally imposed cuts that students are already suffering from. That’s not something we did. They did it. We want that to change.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has been reasonable in contract talks, scaling back increases to class sizes and mandatory e-learning requirements. The government announced in the spring that it was increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 over four years and requiring four online credits to graduate. In recent weeks, it has offered a class-size increase to 25 instead, and dropped the e-learning requirement to two courses.

Teachers were not appeased.

“They originally announced that it would be much worse at the end of four years, and now they’re saying it’s only going to be somewhat worse at the end of four years,” Bischof said.

Lecce said if teachers don’t participate in certain professional development activities and don’t put comments on report cards, that will hurt students.

“They are the singular victim of that escalation, I really believe that,” he said.

During the work to rule, high school teachers will also not complete ministry data reports or participate in ministry- or school board-driven professional activities.

Elementary teachers will also not do any online training by the ministry, not take part in any school board activities on professional activity (PA) days, and not respond to any emails from administrators outside of school hours, except if it is about safety, support for students with special needs or for a supply teacher to accept a job.

Negotiations between the province and the education unions started on tense terms a few months ago, and three of the four major unions have moved toward labour action of some kind.

Catholic teachers have voted 97 per cent in favour of a strike if necessary, although they are not yet in a legal strike position, while negotiations between the province and French teachers continue.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2019.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

12 COMMENTS

  1. “if teachers don’t…put comments on report cards, that will hurt students.”
    Umm, all I’ve ever seen on my kids’ reports cards over the years has been the bare minimum effort of a 1-2 line copy & paste.

  2. TIME TO RANT!!!
    Before all you keyboard jockeys start whinning about the teachers going on strike, learn your facts. They are fighting for your kids and their right to a proper education.
    Teachers didn’t even ask for money in this contract. The Union is going for more money.
    The teachers are going after the provincial government for better classroom support and to get more funding for classroom that Ford cut this past year, like more EAs and behavioural assistance as well as smaller class sizes so your kids have more one on one time.
    I have lots of teacher friends and family that have told me what they are fighting for!

    Before you go start shooting your mouths off, maybe you should ask your kids teachers or a family member or friend that is a teacher and find out facts.
    End rant.

    • @chris michaud – Though I understand & appreciate what you’re saying, the reality of education & funding isn’t as we’ve been told & presented. In the past 10 years in Ontario teaching positions have increased almost 19,000 and EA/support positions increased by almost 20,000. During that time education spending has also increased and reported vary between 100,000,000 and 150,000,000. Also during that time the number of students enrolled in Ontario have actually decreased by about 150,000. One should ask if student enrollment is down so significantly, how has spending, teaching & support positions increased so significantly?
      The previous 2 governments have turned Ontario from a ‘have’ province to a ‘have not’ province relying on federal equalization payments. Education boards were given a mandate a while back to find efficiencies in order to make most effective use of budgets however that was never realized. Unfortunately now we’re in a tight spot.
      I know the facts – my neighbours across the street are teachers. My uncle is a teacher. My best friend is a teacher. Some of my clients are teachers (who somehow frequently visit my business at 3:45 weekdays and on PD days). My spouse’s cousin is a teacher.
      While private sector jobs have been forced into pay freezes, merit increase moratoriums, near austerity measures, and doing more with less, education positions regrettably resisted those measures and enjoyed what many would consider “the fruits of luxury”.
      Although I’m not a fan of cuts and feel that the way the cuts are being handled could be better, change is needed.
      We’ve all seen phases where we experienced larger classes sizes and in my student career we didn’t have EAs or support staff. We didn’t get extra help. Then I could rely a little more on my parents however times are different today and parents are working longer and longer hours to make ends meet, even taking on 2nd jobs (like myself).
      The province is broke and in serious trouble. Everyone needs to play a role.

    • Here’s the million dollar question.
      If teaching is such a difficult unsupported career and teachers are martyrs that are constantly sacrificing then why is there always a surplus of teachers?
      There’s a ton of teachers that just won’t retire when they should. There’s a ton of people entering teacher’s college. There’s a ton of teachers applying every year.
      The alleged ‘battle’ between teachers/union and the province has been well known for decades yet people are still lining up to become teachers. That says a lot.
      And don’t say people stay as teachers because they don’t want to go back to school for a new career because they don’t have to. Many people are working in secondary or tertiary careers with a different diploma or career that isn’t in their field.

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