Local elementary teachers held a strike vote Oct. 16 in the wake of stalled negotiations between their central bargaining unit and the province.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents teachers, occasional teachers and designated early childhood educators, has called on its locals to hold strike votes across the province amid collective agreement negotiations with the provincial government, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association and the Council of Trustees’ Associations. The ETFO also filed for a conciliation officer to help the process Oct. 16 and said negotiations have come to a “virtual standstill.”

Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) teacher local president Karen Bratina said more than 650 people attended the local strike vote, where they were provided information about the bargaining process. The results will not be disclosed until November after all the ETFO locals have voted.

“I’m very confident that teachers at Trillium Lakelands will have given a strong mandate,” Bratina said.

The ETFO collective agreements expired Aug. 31. ETFO said in an Oct. 16 press release that the province seeks up to 2.5 per cent spending reduction in the education sector. As part of that, ETFO said the province wants teachers and occasional teachers to agree to up to $150 million in collective agreement strips.

“I would say that is the greatest threat to our world-class education in Ontario, the cuts,” Bratina said.

Another issue Bratina identified is increasing violence against teachers. A University of Ottawa study found 54 per cent of elementary educators reported they experienced physical violence in the 2017-18 school year.

“The violence in our schools continues to grow because there’s a lack of supports,” Bratina said.

The Ministry of Education could not be reached before press time.

Local bargaining between TLDSB and its teachers will also soon take place and will not await central bargaining, Bratina said. She added teachers are circulating a survey to create a preliminary submission, which will be presented to TLDSB in November.

Bratina said she could not predict how local bargaining will play out.

“It’s my hope that locally, we will be able to come to a fair agreement,” she said. “Like central bargaining, locally we just want what’s best for our members.”

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