Ontario teachers to hold strike votes

Teachers likely won't have contracts before school year

Ontario teachers to hold strike votes

Public elementary and secondary teachers in Ontario will be asking members to vote for a strike mandate as they expressed frustration at the slow pace of negotiations.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) will hold meetings across the province from mid-September to mid-October. The union claims that bargaining has “stalled” at ETFO’s Education Worker Central Table.

“ETFO members have been without an agreement for almost a year. They have been patient, but their patience has run out. We need the [Doug] Ford government to take bargaining seriously and to act in good faith, as required by law,” said Karen Brown, ETFO president, in a press release.

The union is looking to talk with the government about issues like improved supports for students with special needs, violence in schools, compensation, fair and transparent hiring practices, workload and working conditions, and smaller class sizes. 

However, it claimed that the government has “refused to engage in any meaningful discussions about these education priorities”.

“ETFO’s goal is to reach fair and reasonable agreements without having to take job action,” said Brown. “We need the government’s full attention on bargaining so we can address pressing concerns in public education.”

The union has two bargaining dates with the province at the end of this month, Brown said in a CP24 report.

OSSTF also looking to hold votes

Meanwhile, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) said it, too, will hold strike votes this fall.

The union told its members that the government has shown “little interest in engaging in substantive negotiations” and little progress has been made, OSSTF/FEESO said in a member obtained by The Canadian Press.

"It is well past time for this government to come to the table willing to conclude a deal to ensure students in Ontario can learn and grow in a world-renowned public education system," the union wrote in a memo.

"A strong strike mandate will demonstrate our unity and determination to achieve fair and favourable terms for our members and students."

Teachers across the province will be returning to school in September without a collective agreement, for the second year in a row, noted CP24 in its report.

Several unions are holding labour strikes throughout the country, and more may be in store, two experts previously warned.

‘Unnecessary and unfair’

Meanwhile, Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s minister of education, noted that students are relying on teacher unions, school boards and the government to “put their interests first” and that starts with “students staying in class from September to June”.

“Threatening another strike and creating anxiety for parents and students just weeks before the start of the school year is unnecessary and unfair,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

He also noted that the government has been “bargaining in good faith” and that it met over 170 times with all education unions. Ontario is focused on securing a deal that “treats educators fairly,” he said.

“After private mediation was rejected by teachers’ unions to reach deals, we are available to meet every day to negotiate a deal that keeps students in class and improves the outcomes of students. I believe by staying at the table, we can and will reach a deal that keeps kids learning in classrooms where they belong.”

Greater Toronto Area Metro workers and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), as well as a handful of others already held strikes earlier this year.

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