‘Patience has run out’: Ontario elementary teachers to hold strike votes

Ontario elementary teachers will hold strike votes after their union (ETFO) accused Doug Ford’s government of stalling on negotiations.

The votes will be held across the province from mid-September to mid-October, ETFO said in a release.

“ETFO members have been without an agreement for almost a year,” ETFO President Karen Brown said in a release on Monday.

“They have been patient, but their patience has run out. We need the Ford government to take bargaining seriously and to act in good faith, as required by law.”

“ETFO’s goal is to reach fair and reasonable agreements without having to take job action. We need the government’s full attention on bargaining so we can address pressing concerns in public education.”

In its release, ETFO blamed the Ford government for failing to negotiate about key priorities like “improved supports for students with special needs, violence in schools, compensation, fair and transparent hiring practices, workload and working conditions, and smaller class sizes.

RELATED: Elementary teachers union says violence ‘normalized’ in schools, blames Ford government

“The government has refused to engage in any meaningful discussions about these education priorities,” ETFO said.

Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, denied those accusations and called the threat of a strike “unnecessary and unfair.”

“Our government has been bargaining in good faith, meeting over 170 times with all education unions, and are focused on securing a deal that keeps kids in class, provides parents with stability, and treats educators fairly,” Lecce said in a statement.

“Threatening another strike and creating anxiety for parents and students just weeks before the start of the school year is unnecessary and unfair.”

“After private mediation was rejected by teachers’ unions to reach deals, we are available to meet every day to negotiate a deal that keeps students in class and improves the outcomes of students. I believe by staying at the table, we can and will reach a deal that keeps kids learning in classrooms where they belong.”

In an interview with CityNews later Monday, Lecce again emphasized his hope that both sides could reach an agreement.

“I remain cautiously optimistic that there’s a deal to be had,” he said.

When asked if he thought teachers were paid enough, he added, “We pay teachers among the highest in the country.”

Lecce would not say if his government would legislate teachers back to work if they do indeed decide to strike, saying his focus now was on finding common ground to assure students remain in classrooms.

He also said he hopes things can remain civil while that process unfolds.

“I think finger pointing is not going to get us to reach an agreement.”

On Monday evening, sources confirmed to CityNews that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) is considering pursuing a strike vote this fall if nothing changes at the bargaining table over the coming weeks.

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