Ontario’s public elementary and high school teachers are running work-to-rule campaigns starting Tuesday, saying months of contract talks have produced little progress.
Members of The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation are 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 to change in terms of the quality of their children’s learning environment,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof.
Teachers to hold info pickets
High school teachers are holding information pickets to distribute information to parents, but will not impede access to schools, Bischof said. Elementary teachers gathered outside the main entrances of schools 15 minutes before class on Tuesday, entering together in what their union is calling a solidarity action.
“I’m very frustrated,” Rachel Rosen, a teacher at Sole Alternative school, said at the picket line Monday morning. “If there is money to break contracts with the LCBO, if there is money to put stickers on gas stations, there is money for the future of our province.”
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.”
No report card comments will hurt students, minister says
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has been reasonable in contract talks, scaling back increases to class sizes and mandatory e-learning requirements.
“As evidenced by the voluntarily negotiated agreement with CUPE, I know we can get there through working together in good faith, so that students remain in class,” the Minister said in a statement released late Monday night.
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.
Work to rule means no school board activities on PA days
During the work to rule, high school teachers will:
- Not complete ministry data reports.
- Not participate in ministry- or school board-driven professional activities.
During the work to rule, elementary teachers will:
- Not take part in any online training by the ministry.
- Not take part in any school board activities on professional activity (PA) days.
- 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.