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Toronto Catholic elementary teachers threaten to strike next week, board says

Click to play video: 'TCDSB says union representing elementary schools issued strike notice'
TCDSB says union representing elementary schools issued strike notice
WATCH: In a letter to parent, the Toronto Catholic District School Board says Toronto Elementary Catholic Teacher’s union has issued notice of a full strike at one or more schools on Monday if a collective agreement isn’t reached. Erica Vella has details – Jan 27, 2022

Catholic elementary school teachers in Toronto are threatening to strike next week if a tentative deal cannot be struck with the board.

In a letter sent to families on Wednesday, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) said it received notice from the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers union (TECT) on Tuesday evening of a “full strike at one or more schools” beginning on Monday.

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The board said it was “shocked to receive TECT’s notice,” adding that it is “disappointed” that the TECT is “choosing to disrupt student learning by threatening to go on strike.”
Click to play video: 'TCDSB says union representing elementary schools issued strike notice'
TCDSB says union representing elementary schools issued strike notice

The board said the union is threatening to go on strike over two main issues: absenteeism and staffing levels and assignments.

“Absenteeism continues to be a serious issue that impacts the classroom experience for students,” the letter reads.

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The board claims TECT wants to prevent it from “supporting teachers while also improving attendance at work.”

The board also said the TECT union wants to limit the manner in which the board determines staffing levels and classroom assignments.

Click to play video: 'Ontario releases school absenteeism data as kids return to in-person learning'
Ontario releases school absenteeism data as kids return to in-person learning

“We recognize how difficult the last few years have been for staff, students, and families during the pandemic and appreciate all that our teachers continue to do to support students during this difficult time,” the letter reads.

However, the TCDSB said it is “inexcusable” that the TECT union “wants to halt student learning by threatening to strike after all that students have been through during the pandemic in order to prevent the Board from providing absenteeism support and managing staffing processes.”

The TCDSB said it is available to meet “today or any day” to reach a deal with the TECT union.

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In a statement emailed to Global News late Wednesday afternoon, TECT President Julie Altomare-DiNunzio said the union is fighting at the bargaining table to “maintain the current practices that ensure stability in the staffing process so there is consistency, and students receive the best possible holistic emotional, social and academic supports.”

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The union claims the TCDSB has “continued to use the cover of the pandemic” to make “unreasonable, regressive demands at the bargaining table.”

Altomare-DiNunzio said the board’s “draconian impositions” would “impact essential programs that support students, punish teachers for being sick, strip away rights, and constrain our teachers’ ability to best serve their students.”

“Enough is enough,” Altomare-DiNunzio said, adding that the union has been without a contract since 2019.

“It is time for the Board to come to the table to negotiate an agreement that would actually serve their students and teachers,” she said.

According to the TECT website, the union represents more than 4,000 elementary teachers who work in the TCDSB.

In a statement emailed to Global News earlier on Wednesday, Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the “most recent provocations from the Toronto Catholic elementary teachers union to strike and subsequently close schools is wrong.”

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“These teacher union strikes are an affront to the interests of children who deserve to be in school,” Lecce said.

“On behalf of tens of thousands of families who seek stability as Ontario gets through these challenges of Omicron: call off the strikes,” he continued.

Click to play video: 'Back to school is taking a toll on Ontario teachers'
Back to school is taking a toll on Ontario teachers

However, Altomare-DiNunzio responded to Lecce’s comments, saying he should be “laser-focused on providing the necessary funding and support to make schools safer rather than interfering with local bargaining.”

The news of the potential strike comes just one week after the TCDSB reopened its schools for in-person learning.

Students and staff had been learning remotely after the province shuttered schools after the holidays in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.

A massive snowstorm last Monday also forced the schools to remain closed until mid-week.

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