Labour issues in Ontario education
Ontario has four teacher federations – which each include a range of staff, from teachers, to educational assistants and office staff. All of their contracts expired at the end of August 2019, and each is in a different stage of negotiations with the provincial government:
- The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has been working to rule since January 13th, and has announced they will hold a one-day strike on January 21st.
- The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Association (OSSTF) has been working to rule since November 26, 2019 and has been holding rotating one day strikes since mid-December.
- The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced an initial work-to-rule on November 26th. Last week the federation announced that the work-to-rule would escalate to include non-participation in extra curricular activities except those scheduled during the school day, among other withdrawals of service. The federation also announced that if there was no agreement by January 17th, they too would begin rotating strikes starting in the week of January 20th.
- The French-language teachers – l’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) – have voted 97% in favour of strike action, and will begin a work-to-rule on Thursday, January 16th.
What is under negotiation?
Each federation is different, and there are many details in the issues being bargained, but the federations are asking for a number of overall changes to the province’s plans for education:
- Secondary teachers in all three affected unions (OSSTF, OECTA and AEFO) want the province to roll back its planned cuts to teacher positions. People for Education estimates that the changes will result in the loss of more than 3,000 teachers from secondary schools, and as a result will limit students’ course choices. This is the result of changes to class size funding.
- All four federations are fighting the province’s cap on salary increases. The province wants to cap salary increases at 1%, which is approximately half the rate of inflation. According to the province’s Financial Accountability Office this will extend years stagnating salaries for educators.
- High school teachers want the province to roll back its plans for mandatory e-learning. The government now says that only two e-learning courses will be required for graduation, but this will still make Ontario the only jurisdiction in North America that requires more than one online course.
- The province’s planned changes to class size funding also affect elementary teachers in three of the federations (ETFO, OETCA and AEFO). People for Education has estimated that the planned cuts for teachers in grades 4 to 8 will result in at least 1,300 fewer teacher positions in the province.
- Also up for negotiation are planned and potential changes to kindergarten classes, which currently each have a full-time early childhood educator and a full-time teacher. The province announced an approximately $40 million cut in funding in this area.
- Other issues include supports for Special Education. The province announced that it was holding back a previously implemented $177 million Local Priorities Fund which, among other things, provided boards with funding for special education resources and supports.
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