Contract talks between ETFO, Ontario government break down

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WATCH ABOVE: For years, former Olympic high jumper Milt Ottey has been running a fitness program in regional schools. But after weeks of job action by Ontario teachers, Ottey says he’s driving for Uber to make up for thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Matthew Bingley reports – Jan 31, 2020

TORONTO – A renewed round of contract talks between Ontario elementary teachers and the provincial government broke down late Friday with no deal, meaning their strikes will escalate next week.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the province had not bargained since Dec. 19, but after the mediator called the parties back to the table this week they spent three long days in negotiations. No new dates are scheduled.

The union had said that if no deal was reached by Friday, teachers would walk out at each board twice a week starting Monday.

READ MORE: 3rd day of talks begin between Ontario’s public elementary teachers, government

“ETFO made every effort over the past three days to move negotiations forward, but it became increasingly clear that the Ford government was not willing to address key issues in any meaningful way,” union president Sam Hammond said in a statement.

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Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the government has “affirmed in writing” its commitment to maintaining Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program. ETFO had been concerned the one teacher, one early childhood educator model was threatened.

“I have long said that compensation, pay and benefits remain a top priority for teachers’ union leaders and that remains true today,” Lecce said in a statement.

“Even following our formal commitment to one of their publicly stated priorities, ETFO leadership continues to advance compensation for their members over the protection of the education system for our youngest learners.”

Unions are asking for wage increases of around two per cent to keep up with inflation, but the government passed legislation last year capping wage increases for all public sector workers to one per cent for three years. The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting it in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

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ETFO has also asked for the government to increase supports for students with special needs and address violence in classrooms.

Hammond said that isn’t happening at the bargaining table, but Lecce said the government “has continued to signal reasonableness” on those issues.

READ MORE: How will the Ontario teachers’ strikes affect students’ learning? Experts weigh in

The school boards to be hit by elementary strikes on Monday include: Bluewater, Grand Erie, Halton, Ontario North East, Renfrew County, Superior-Greenstone and Trillium Lakelands.

A province-wide strike by ETFO is set for Feb. 6.

All four major teachers’ unions have been without contracts since Aug. 31, and are all engaged in some form of job action. Unions representing English Catholic teachers and teachers in the French system have bargaining scheduled next week.

High school teachers have no scheduled bargaining dates. They announced Thursday that they would resume their weekly rotating strikes, after not holding any during this week’s exam period.

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