TORONTO – The labour dispute between Ontario public school teachers and the province deepened Tuesday after educators in the French system announced they will start a work-to-rule campaign later this week.
The announcement by the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens means all of the major unions representing the province’s teachers, who have been without a contract since August, are now engaged in job actions.
The French union, AEFO, said Phase 1 of its work-to-rule campaign would start on Thursday and would see members no longer completing some administrative duties.
Union president Remi Sabourin said the main issues in contract talks have been the major education changes Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced outside of the bargaining process, including increases to class sizes and mandatory e-learning courses.
“AEFO knows that strike action may have an impact on the daily life of students and their families,” he said. “At this point, we cannot agree to participate in the deterioration of the education system, which is still one of the best in the world. The success of our students in non-negotiable.”
The union became the latest to announce job action to ramp up pressure on the province contract talks that appear to have stalled.
Sabourin said the province’s approach at the bargaining table has been focused on finances, and its bid to cap teacher pay at a one per cent increase with legislation tramples on the right to freely negotiate compensation.
“The Ford government sees education as an expense,” he said.
“AEFO teachers will tell you it’s an investment. Today’s students are the future of Ontario.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Tuesday that the unions’
job actions are hurting students, adding such moves are cyclical and target governments of every political stripe during contract talks.
Lecce called on all of the unions to continue bargaining and enter into private mediation in an attempt to reach agreements.
On Monday, Ontario’s English Catholic teachers announced they will hold a one-day strike next week that will affect elementary and secondary schools. The president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said the union’s 45,000 members would walk off the job on Tuesday, Jan. 21, after negotiations with the government broke off last week and no new dates have been scheduled.
Public elementary teachers stepped up their work-to-rule campaign and are planning for rotating strikes starting next week, while public high school teachers are set to stage the latest in a series of one-day, rotating strikes on Wednesday.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is planning rotating strikes starting Jan. 20 unless there is significant progress in contract talks.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has staged a series of rotating strikes and have also been on a work-to-rule campaign since November.
Meanwhile, a group of parents held a news conference Tuesday to denounce the actions of the provincial government and ask the education minister to reach agreements with all of the teacher’s unions.
The group, which says it has no affiliation with any of the education sector unions, called on the government to reverse mandatory e-learning requirements, class size increases and give educators a pay increase above the one per cent cap.
“I’m here today to tell the Ford government to stop destroying Ontario’s public education system,” said parent Romana Siddiqui.
“I demand the Ford government end the devastating defunding of public education …. (and) settle a fair deal for children and education workers now.”
© 2020 The Canadian Press