Ontario’s 70,000 public elementary school teachers ramped up work-to-rule tactics this week.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario initiated phase three of its efforts to get a better deal with the province on September 21, calling on its members to not fill in for absent teachers, update class websites or take on extra duties during scheduled prep time, among other activities designed to cause problems for school board officials.
“On September 7, after insisting ETFO accept terms designed for secondary teachers, the Liberal government and (Ontario Public School Boards’ Association) abruptly left the bargaining table,” ETFO said in a statement. “ETFO has waited more than a week for the government and OPSBA to return to the bargaining table. We have heard nothing from them. The government is trying to cut corners by offering elementary teachers a deal designed for secondary teachers. Elementary teachers and students have different needs than secondary teachers and students.”
He added, “Despite what the government is implying, it has not offered our members the same conditions as secondary teachers. There is a significant disparity in how elementary and secondary schools are funded. That funding gap results in larger class sizes, fewer student supports and poorer working conditions in our elementary schools. The deal the government insists ETFO accept does absolutely nothing to close that gap.”
In a legal strike position since May 10, the union initiated work-to-rule tactics May 18 in an effort to get negotiations – they have been without a contract since August of last year – moving in their direction.
ETFO’s Waterloo representative, Greg Weiler, says the job action is designed to make life more difficult for the board, and not for students and parents.
“It largely remains administrative in nature, so it shouldn’t have a big impact on anything to do with students,” he said. “We’re not at the point locally of being close to progress reports or interviews happening, so I think the feeling is that we are optimistic that the government will come back, and that they need to come back to the table, and that’s the point of this and that that will happen before any of those types of things actually become a reality.”
Last June, teachers refused to electronically submit grades for report cards, leading to delays in students receiving their marks and costing the WRDSB $200,000 in wages for temporary workers who took over the data entry.
If a deal is not met by the time midterm reports are scheduled to come out in October, a similar scenario could unfold, Weiler said.
The union remains a lone holdout after refusing a deal in line with what was agreed to by high school, Catholic and French school teachers.