Local ETFO strikes continue Feb. 11, 13

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Creemore educators joined their New Lowell colleagues on the picket line once again this week during two strike days that impacted local schools.
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) members were on strike Wednesday during a rotating strike, and Thursday for a province-wide strike when all 83,000 members were on the picket lines.
Across the province, almost one million students were affected by the strikes. In Creemore, parents had to make alternative arrangements for childcare. Clearview Community Church was able to pull off a Strike Day Camp on Thursday and the same is planned for the next Thursday. Register here.
ETFO has announced its intention to hold another province-wide walkout on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and a one-day rotating walkout for Simcoe County schools on Thursday, Feb. 13. If parties return to the bargaining table, and a tentative agreement is reached, returning educators to the classroom, those schools would open.
ETFO president Sam Hammond said after three days of central bargaining talks, a deal had been within reach last Friday, until in the eleventh hour, the government abruptly tabled impossible options that ended talks.
“ETFO, school board associations and the government were close to an agreement on Friday that would have been good for students, educators and public education. It would have ensured stability in public elementary schools this week,” said Hammond. “Then, late that day, the government’s negotiators changed course and tabled impossible options they knew ETFO could not accept.”
“I want to set the record straight,” continued Hammond. “Unlike the Minister of Education, I was at the bargaining table last week so I know what was discussed. Despite what Minister [Stephen] Lecce is claiming, salary was not addressed during those negotiations, and government negotiators did not sign a letter of commitment to maintain the Kindergarten model.”
ETFO said the issues were around special education funding, which remained less than half the priority, and special education funding negotiated in 2017.
Hammond said in a press conference Tuesday that the union is defending its most vulnerable students.
“An agreement was also within reach on maintaining a long-standing regulation that ensures fair and transparent hiring processes for teachers. Government negotiators then introduced demands for major concessions around fair hiring,” said Hammond.
Lecce said in a Jan. 31 statement, “Over the past few days, the government has further demonstrated our focus on keeping kids in class through a voluntary agreement. As part of that commitment, and to further underscore my public statements, we have affirmed in writing that we will be maintaining Ontario’s world-class kindergarten program.”
“I have long said that compensation, pay, and benefits, remain a top priority for teachers’ union leaders, and that remains true today… The government has continued to signal reasonableness on issues from special education supports to efforts to counter violence in schools. Yet, the teachers’ union leadership push for compensation that comes with a substantial cost to the taxpayer,” said Lecce.
“While the mediator has called off discussions for now, the government stands ready to meet at any time, to reach a deal that keeps students in class.”

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