Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) have given their central bargaining team a strike mandate, with 98 per cent voting in favour.
The ETFO announced the results Nov. 1, encompassing 83,000 members including teachers, occasional teachers and designated early childhood educators. In separate votes, teachers plus occupational teachers and education workers each gave 98 per cent support. The votes occurred in boards across the province in September and October, including for Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) in Lindsay Oct. 16.
ETFO TLDSB local teacher representative Karen Bratina said she is pleased by the results.
“A 98 per cent strike mandate should make this government stand up and listen,” Bratina said. “This mandate demonstrates solidarity among teachers across this province and proves that Ontario teachers are solidly behind ETFO.”
A local breakdown of central strike voting was not made available.
ETFO president Sam Hammond said at a Nov. 1 press conference members have concerns going unaddressed by the province in negotiations, including a lack of frontline supports for special needs students, class sizes, violence in elementary schools and possible program cuts.
“All we have received are evasive non-answers, so we’ve moved forward with the legal avenues,” Hammond said. “Our members are overwhelmingly behind their central bargaining team and expect, absolutely expect, the government to get serious at the bargaining table.”
The organization is not yet taking job action and Hammond did not provide any timelines for when such an action might occur. But the vote enables ETFO to possibly proceed with central strike action at a later date.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said in a Nov. 1 statement the government has been a “reasonable and constructive force at the bargaining table.”
“ETFO has taken another escalating step towards a strike which will disproportionately hurt our kids,” Lecce said. “I support a deal, not a strike. Our team remains unequivocal in our determination to land a deal with our labour partners as soon as possible to keep kids in our classroom.”
ETFO has asked for a “no board” report from the Minister of Labour after a conciliation meeting Nov. 4. The report is another step toward a strike, with the union able to enter one on the 17th day after the report is released.
“It became apparent that the government and school board agencies were not interested in arriving at a fair settlement,” ETFO said in a press release.
Hammond has said the province asked ETFO to find $150 million in cuts in concessions in their collective agreement.
“ETFO will not consider funding cuts for elementary programs in the system,” Hammond said. “Funding to elementary classrooms and schools, elementary programs, needs to be and must be enhanced.”