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Ontario education minister tells Toronto Catholic teachers’ union ‘enough is enough’

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WATCH ABOVE: Ontario’s education minister is calling out Toronto Catholic elementary teachers over job action that is impacting parent-teacher interviews and students’ report cards. Caryn Lieberman reports – Nov 9, 2021

Ontario’s education minister has some blunt words for Toronto Catholic elementary school teachers over job action that is impacting students’ report cards and parent-teacher interviews.

“It is entirely unacceptable for the local teachers union to refuse to conduct parent-teacher interviews and provide detailed report cards, after a difficult year and a half for students and parents alike,” Stephen Lecce said in a statement to Global News.

“Enough is enough. We owe it to students to put them first which is why I’m calling on the union to immediately reinstate these basic services.”

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The Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT) union, which represents 4,000 full-time Toronto Catholic elementary teachers, began its work-to-rule last spring.

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“We began bargaining in February 2021, around April we reached impasse and May 24 we began our work-to-rule sanctions and we’ve been continuing our work-to-rule sanctions ever since,” said TECT president Julie Altomare-Di Nunzio.

“The general pieces are that there are no extracurricular activities, we’ve modified the input of the teachers on the students’ report card and we are not conducting parent-teacher interviews,” she added.

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Students will be receiving their reports cards next week and parent-teacher interviews were originally scheduled for then as well.

“We are providing a religion comment. We’re providing check marks for progressing well, not progressing well, etc., and we’re also providing the letter rankings for the learning skills, so ‘E’ for excellent, ‘G’ for good, ‘S’ for satisfactory and ‘N’ for needs improvement. There are no other report card comments,” said Altomare-Di Nunzio.

She said the union is “open and willing to come to the bargaining table at any time.”

Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) chair Joseph Martino told Global News in a statement that, from the board’s perspective, “we don’t understand why things have stalled.”

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“The Board has withdrawn all outstanding proposals and has offered TECT virtually the same collective agreement that has been accepted and ratified by other unions at the Board. However, TECT refuses to reach an agreement and, instead, is seeking to restrict the Board’s ability to manage problematic absenteeism trends and to limit the Board’s ability to manage important staffing processes,” Martino said in the statement.

Teachers have to provide a medical document after five consecutive days off work providing a reason for their absence.

“It is very frustrating for us because it’s very difficult to understand why the board is not willing to maintain what we currently have for teachers, why, during COVID, would they want to strip teachers of their local rights?” asked Altomare-Di Nunzio.

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“The message that I would like the public to understand and parents to understand is that why, during COVID, would the board not be willing to agree to maintain our current practices and procedures, given that our teachers have done so much for the students during the pandemic?” she said.

Lecce, in his statement, said, “this union should work with — not against — students and parents, and do the right thing by allowing these interviews to be done, and detailed report cards provided.”

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