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ETFO threatens escalation of job action unless negotiations continue

Last Updated Sep 14, 2015 at 8:09 pm EDT

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president Sam Hammond says work-to-rule strike action will be escalated if the government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) don’t return to the negotiating table over the next few days.

Hammond said he was “absolutely shocked that they walked away from the table” on Friday, abruptly halting seven grueling days of negotiations.

“(We are) more than prepared to put in the time necessary to reach a deal, but it appears the Liberal government and OPSBA were not prepared to do the same,” Hammond said at a Monday afternoon news conference.

Hammond accused Premier Wynne of trying to rush a deal for political reasons.

“Wynne may want a quick deal to help Mr. Trudeau’s chances in the federal election,” he said. “We actually want a deal that works for teachers and students…”

On Friday, education minister Liz Sandals said talks broke down after the ETFO rejected an offer that was on par with the one that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) agreed to.

Hammond argued the needs of elementary and secondary students and teachers are vastly different.

“(Premier) Wynne knows that a student who is six years old has different educational needs than a student who is 16 … as a result elementary teachers’ working conditions are very different than secondary teachers.”

Hammond wouldn’t specify the details of escalated job action, but said the next phase could go into effect as early as next week if negotiations don’t resume.

“We have determined what (the escalated job action) will look like,” he said. “But our focus is to get back to the table…”

The ETFO, which represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals, has been in a legal strike position since May 10 and have been without a collective bargaining agreement for the past year.

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

As part of ongoing job 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.