TORONTO – Ontario elementary teachers and some support staff will have their pay docked if they don’t stop their work-to-rule campaigns, the premier announced Friday, as the elementary teachers threatened to withdraw from extracurriculars.
Bargaining with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the unions representing some support staff will resume after representatives met Friday with Premier Kathleen Wynne. She has given them until Nov. 1 to stop their work-to-rule campaigns or they will face sanctions.
“Children’s lives are being negatively affected, so parents and families are understandably frustrated,” Wynne said. “Schools are increasingly dirty and activities that are important to students and parents such as completion of report cards are not taking place.”
The school boards have requested consent from the government to dock the pay of teachers and staff who are withdrawing services.
The government won’t give that permission until Nov. 1, which would then trigger five days’ notice of the impending action, Wynne said.
“If by Nov. 1 one of two things has not happened, then government will give permission: either tentative agreements are reached and all job actions are stopped, or all job actions are stopped and do not resume as talks continue.”
Wynne said she hopes deals can be reached by then because “eight days is a long time in the world of bargaining.” The government is not considering imposing contracts, she said.
ETFO president Sam Hammond said his members won’t respond to threats. But while the union said Thursday that its members would withdraw from extracurriculars in order to pressure the government to get back to the bargaining table, Hammond said they’re not backing down from the withdrawal next week even though bargaining is resuming.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called Wynne’s deadline a “distraction” from controversy surrounding a $2.5-million payout to teachers’ unions — the ones the government has already reached deals with — to compensate for extra costs during lengthy negotiations.
“They know that it’s being widely decried around the province on every talk radio, every newspaper and TV show,” he said. “People are upset with the government. They think it’s inappropriate…No one believes you’re simply going to ballpark or guess what $1 million means in negotiation costs. It’s disrespectful to taxpayers.”
Education Minister Liz Sandals said Thursday that the government didn’t ask for receipts or invoices before the money was given to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the French teachers’ union.
It’s not the first time the government has given the unions some compensation. As other central models were explored in 2004, 2008 and 2012, there were “supports,” Sandals said. Again, she refused to say how much. The Ministry of Education has said it is working on finding that information.
— with files from Keith Leslie