Elementary teachers will stop performing some administrative duties Monday in what they’re calling Phase One of a province-wide strike.
Parents in London and across the province are sighing in a bit of relief though.
Teachers will still be in the classrooms and extracurricular activities and field trips will continue for now. They will not be administering any standardized tests, adding any comments to report cards beyond the marks, nor will they participate in any meetings or professional development related to Ministry of Education initiatives.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond left open the door to escalating the job action.
“This strike action is incremental in nature. It will continue in its current form until (the government and school boards’) demands are withdrawn from the bargaining table or ETFO deems that further actions are required.”
He would not say what a second phase could entail.
Latest updates from the different parties:
Hammond said the Liberal government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association has refused to remove demands that would “strip” teachers’ collective agreements, increase bureaucracy and “handcuff” teachers.
The union told its members about the work-to-rule in a memo earlier this week, but refused to confirm it publicly until Friday.
Education Minister Liz Sandals said in a statement that she is disappointed ETFO is withdrawing some services, she is “encouraged” that students will remain in the classrooms.
Former Director of Education of the Thames Valley District School Board and currently a professor with Western University, Bill Tucker, says although this may seem concerning, there’s no reason to worry yet regarding a full strike.
“Focus on your studies, focus on your education. All three parties (ETFO, Government of Ontario and Ontario Public School Boards Association) know the impact of having students withdrawn from class.”
Tucker says everyone needs to head back to the table, to pan this out.
“That’s the critical point. It’s called a collective agreement. Which means in some point and time, all of the parties have to and will come to an agreement in terms of the collective of the contract.”
With being both in the teacher’s shoes and as the head of the TVDSB, Tucker says he can see both sides of the argument.
“For the teachers, there’s seems to be a lack of flexibility in terms of staffing and you know, it flows back into the classroom. I think right now, the teachers are concerned with the number of mandates are flowing through the Ministry.”
He also says this is an important step for the Union show that they have concerns that need to be dealt with.
“They need to be able to show the government that they are serious when it comes to bring their issues to the table.”
As for the government, Tucker understands the need to ensure that the students get great test scores and are able to graduate.
The TVDSB also released a statement regarding the recent developments.
- Teachers will continue to teach and provide extra help to students. Teachers will also continue to maintain contact with parents/guardians regarding students during the school day. They will also provide supervisory duties at their school.
- As this time field trips and extra-curricular activities will continue
The school board will provide updates on the situation as they become available.
The elementary strike comes as more than 70,000 high school students in the province sit home because teachers in the Toronto-area boards of Peel and Durham, as well as Sudbury, have walked off the job.
With files from The Canadian Press
Here’s the full press conference from the President of ETFO, Sam Hammond.