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ETFO says government has walked away from negotiating table

Last Updated Sep 11, 2015 at 11:54 pm EDT

After a week of steady bargaining, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) says the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the government have walked away from negotiations.

“We’re shocked at this development,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond.

“ETFO members have been working without a collective agreement for over a year. Although progress during our discussions was proceeding at a very slow pace, ETFO was prepared to put in the time necessary to reach a fair central agreement. It appears the other parties were not prepared to do the same.”

But Education Minister Liz Sandals says a fair offer was tabled, but rejected by the ETFO.

“OPSBA and the Crown have tabled a comprehensive proposal to the ETFO…that is in line with the tentative agreements reached with the other teacher federations,” she said in a statement.

“In particular, the offer presented mirrors the tentative agreement with OSSTF, the union representing the English public secondary school teachers, with whom OPSBA also has a bargaining relationship. No additional bargaining dates have been set.

“We understand that the ETFO Executive is meeting with local union presidents on Monday and we are hopeful that they will consider this settlement offer seriously.”

In a release the ETFO, which represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province, said it requested further negotiation dates, but was shut down by OPSBA and the government.

The ETFO has been in a legal strike position since May 10.

The union started a work-to-rule campaign back in May, citing wages, class sizes and teacher prep time as major sticking points in their negotiations.

If a deal isn’t reached, teachers are vowing to escalate work-to-rule action.

Hammond said teachers won’t participate in any field trips, fundraising activities, meeting or training sessions, professional development sessions or respond to any electronic communications from the principal or vice-principal outside the school day except where student safety is involved.