The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) confirmed, last Monday, that it will continue with its strike action plan with ETFO president Sam Hammond outlining what the union calls Phase Seven of its strategy, during a media conference in Toronto. Hammond stated that Phase 7 will take effect March 23, following the annual spring break, if the provincial government does not show willingness to return to the bargaining table.
Hammond dismissed Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s claim that the provincial government made an “important concession” by offering to revise two of its policy plans for Ontario’s education system. The minister suggested the government would limit increasing class sizes to 23 students next term, from the current 22 instead of 28, as was the original plan.
Lecce also said the provincial government would allow for an “opt out” option for school districts on its original plan for mandatory e-learning for some courses in school curriculums. Hammond argued that the provincial government is still determined to reduce the number of teachers in Ontario schools and increase class sizes as part of its cost-cutting measures for education.
Meanwhile, both the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) both have called a temporary halt to their labour action. Representatives for the OECTA and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table, March 4, and have been in negotiations since then.
The OSSTF, which represents public high school teachers, on-call teachers, education assistants, and specialists in continuing education, early childhood education, speech-language pathology, social workers, psychologists, secretaries, plant support personnel and others in the secondary school system, announced it will halt its series of rotating strikes across the province until March 27.
But the union will instead expand its “limited withdrawal of administrative services” in Ontario’s public high schools. OSSTF president Harvey Bischof stated that the tactic will have “minimal effect” on classroom activities.
Bischof also criticized Education Minister Lecce’s announcement about scaling down plans for increasing class sizes in Ontario’s schools.
“The minister’s latest vague proposal to fund class size averages at 23 (students) for 1 (teacher) will still result in significant challenges for students,” Bischof stated. “We already see overcrowded classrooms and disappearing courses, often courses students need in order to graduate. This proposal does nothing to address those serious problems, all of which have come about due to the Ford government’s short-sighted policies.”