After months of difficult negotiations between teachers’ unions and the province, English language public school teachers have begun work-to-rule.
On Thursday, Nov. 21, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) confirmed that job action will begin in public secondary schools across Ontario starting Tuesday, Nov. 26. The OSSTF announcement followed a similar announcement by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) made earlier in the month.
Educators with both unions are engaging in job action as of today.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has, like the other two unions, voted in favour of possible strike action, but has not yet begun any job or work-to-rule action.
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The province has expressed disappointment in the decision.
“I’ve been clear–I want to get deals that keep the children of this province in school. It is regrettable the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) have chosen to escalate to work-to-rule action, only hurting our children,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, said in a statement.
“This escalation to a partial withdrawal of services, including targeting math supports and report cards, hurts our children the most.”
The ETFO says students should not feel any impact, as the action targets the Ministry of Education and school board administrative tasks.
“We are making this known well in advance to assure parents that this strike action will not affect students, their learning or their safety,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond in an earlier statement.
“ETFO members will be withdrawing from Ministry and school board administrative activities, which will give them more time to focus on working with students.”
The OSSTF also says its job action currently targets the Ministry of Education and school board administrative tasks that do not impact students.
During the job action, all schools will remain open and all secondary teachers will continue teaching students and maintaining contact with families regarding students.
However, during this phase of job action, secondary school teachers will not:
- participate in EQAO preparation or testing (Grade 9 EQAO math assessment is currently scheduled for January 13 to 24)
- complete Ministry of Education reports
- participate in Board- or Ministry-directed professional development; they will engage in self-directed professional activities
- participate in unpaid staff meetings outside the scheduled school day
- provide comments on any secondary provincial report cards (done in January ahead of report card distribution in early February.
As of Nov. 26, ETFO members will not participate in professional learning outside of the instructional day, attend staff/division/grade team meetings, or engage in EQAO-related activities.
The ETFO has also asked members to meet outside of their workplace entrances and to enter together at the start of their workday. Elementary teachers will continue to provide their scheduled supervisory duties.
The ETFO has also directed elementary teachers to not complete term 1 report cards, outside of providing the school administrator with a class list of marks for subjects/strands taught and one comment per frame for Kindergarten Communication of Learning.
This work is undertaken in January ahead of report card distribution in early February.
“The government has remained a consistent and reasonable force at the negotiating table, trying to reach a deal that provides certainty and predictability to parents, students, and educators. 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,” Lecce said.
“My negotiating team stands ready for meaningful, good-faith bargaining 24/7, to reach the deals Ontario students and families deserve. There is a path to a deal, and it requires all parties to be reasonable and fair and put the needs of our children first.”
Unions say the province has failed to address education cuts and increased rates of violence in schools.
No strike action is imminent at this time.