The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced on Monday a countdown to strike action as its latest move in its labour dispute with the government of Premier Doug Ford.
The union announced it has requested a “no-board” report, which starts a 17-day countdown to possible job action across the province once the minister of labour releases the no-board notice to the employer and the union.
“We are left with no choice today except to ask the conciliator to file a no-board report at both of our bargaining tables,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said at a news conference.
“It is so upsetting that this government is spending so much time, for example this week, worrying about cellphones in classrooms, worrying about dogs being allowed on patios and bars in this province; and more importantly, spending so much time interfering in the collective bargaining process by pushing Bill 124, the compensation restraint bill in this province.
In mid-October, the union filed for conciliation after contract talks stalled, and just last week 98 per cent of ETFO’s membership voted in favour of a strike if it can’t get a deal with the province.
‘No response on key issues’
The ETFO president accuses the government of failing to negotiate in “good faith” and failing to act in response to union members’ strike vote, which was conducted in September and October.
The results of the vote were released last Friday.
“We have spent months trying to get this government to deal with issues that are important to students and parents and our members in this province and again today we’ve had no response on a number of key issues that are extremely important in publicly funded public education today,” Hammond said.
“You would think that after our members providing a 98 per cent strike vote last week that the government would actually come to the table today and bargain in good faith. They have not done that yet again.”
ETFO represents some 83,000 public elementary teachers, occasional teachers and educational professionals.
Earlier Monday, Hammond said teachers are uncertain and concerned about what’s happening with the contract talks.
“I would … add to that the frustration of what they’re hearing and seeing in the bargaining process as it’s unfolding,” Hammond said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
Contracts with a number of education sector unions expired Aug. 31 and negotiations are at various stages.
Lecce: province has been ‘reasonable and constructive’
The province, meanwhile, has said it’s committed to reaching a deal that will provide certainty to parents and students.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce has consistently disputed the union’s characterization of the talks, and said the province has been “reasonable and constructive” during bargaining.
“On the day our government announced the ratification of the CUPE deal that kept students in class, this union has opted to escalate. The contrast could not be more clear,” he said in a statement on Monday.
“Strike action caused by unions hurts our students the most. I support a deal, not a strike,” Lecce said.
Key sticking points
Hammond said there are a number of key issues they’ve been waiting for the government to act on.
He said it’s now time for the government to stop talking and act.
“For two months we have been waiting for this government to make a commitment to full-day kindergarten in the province. We’re still waiting. We thought we would come here today and have a discussion about that particular issue; nothing,” Hammond said.
“Quite frankly, we’re tired of waiting. If this government is serious, if the Ministry of Education is serious about the comments he’s making publicly that he cares about students, that he wants to protect the future of public education in this province, they need to make that a reality at our table.”