Ontario elementary teachers set to drop extracurricular activities next week

TORONTO — Ontario elementary school teachers won’t be providing extracurricular activities for students starting next week as they ramp up their work-to-rule action.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said Thursday teachers would no longer be providing voluntary extracurricular activities beginning Wednesday.

The union claims the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the government have failed to respond to ETFO to resume central table bargaining.

READ MORE: Ontario elementary teachers hold pickets outside MPP offices on Wynne Wednesday

“The Liberal government and OPSBA have ignored all attempts by ETFO to get them to return to the central bargaining table, including an offer to refer one issue to binding arbitration. If OPSBA and the government want a deal, why are they not responding to our efforts to resume bargaining? Why are they not back at the bargaining table with us?” ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a release Thursday.

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“Our members do not undertake this escalation of strike action lightly, but they understand that reaching a fair and reasonable agreement will not happen unless OPSBA and the government are present at the bargaining table.”

Hammond said the ETFO is calling on OPSBA and the government to return to the central bargaining table to finish negotiations, adding that ETFO members have been working without a contract since August 2014.

WATCH: Public school teachers will refuse extracurricular activities as of next Wednesday. Mark Carcasole reports.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said in a statement Thursday that the government had invited school board associations, ETFO, CUPE and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation to a meeting with Sandals and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to “discuss the status of ongoing labour negotiations and the impact of job action on students and parents.”

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“This afternoon, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced that, starting next Wednesday, its members will no longer participate in extracurricular activities and will not complete the fall progress report cards,” she said.

“The impact of this decision by ETFO on students and parents will be added to tomorrow’s agenda. Extracurriculars are a very important part of teachers’ and students’ school year experience. It is regrettable that ETFO is continuing to participate in job action that has a direct impact on our students.”

READ MORE: Wynne says school boards put out statement on talks with ETFO out of frustration

Sandals said that the best way to resolve the ongoing job action is to negotiate any remaining issues at the bargaining table.

“We urge ETFO to focus on bargaining rather than further disruption in our schools. We have proposed dates to ETFO for the parties to resume negotiations next week and are awaiting their response,” she said.

“We want our students and teachers to be in the classroom focused on learning.”

READ MORE: Teachers union disputes government claim of stalled negotiations

The announcement comes after teachers picketed MPP offices on what ETFO called “Wynne Wednesday” this week, in protest of stalled contract negotiations with the province.

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The teachers union was fuming after the Public School Boards Association put out a statement last week saying there had been progress but talks have stalled on two issues: sick leave and benefits.

Hammond said Wednesday the union was waiting for the call to reconsider the latest offer and return to the bargaining table.

READ MORE: Wynne urges elementary teachers to accept same deal as high school colleagues

Some of the picket locations, part of the union’s work-to-rule action, included the offices of Charles Sousa in Mississauga and Harinder Malhi in Brampton, as well as the Peel District School Board office.

ETFO represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province.

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