Greater Essex Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

Main Menu

Minister plays tough after school deadline
Kennedy blacklists nine teacher units working to rule after June 1 proposal

April Lindgren
CanWest News Service
Friday, June 03, 2005

TORONTO - Elementary school teachers, who are working to rule in nine Ontario school districts, are from "the dark ages of education," Education Minister Gerard Kennedy said Thursday

He announced the union locals involved will be denied access to a province-wide pay-and-benefit offer.

Kennedy said withdrawing the offer to the nine bargaining units of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario means "that it is impossible for those boards and federations to get the agreements the rest of the province is getting," including four-year contracts and additional funding for the hiring of more teachers and extra preparation time.

Kennedy suggested if the work-to-rule campaigns end immediately, the offer will be restored but "a long-term work to rule might preclude any access to those resources."

The affected boards are Renfrew, Halton, Bluewater, Thames Valley, Limestone, Lakehead in Thunder Bay, Avon Maitland and Algoma.

Although teachers at elementary schools in Toronto have been working to rule since Wednesday -- a move that has infuriated many parents and forced the cancellation of track meets and other end-of-year events -- Kennedy said he did not include them on his blacklist because he expected the two sides to reach a settlement Thursday.

Altogether, 95 of 122 contracts with elementary and secondary teachers were successfully negotiated by the June 1 deadline set by the minister.

Eighteen boards and bargaining units have been granted extensions because no work-to-rule actions are in effect and Kennedy believes they are en route to a settlement.

The offer that has been suspended for elementary teachers in the nine schools boards includes a four-year contract, pay hikes of 10.6 per cent or nearly $1 billion, and a share of $39 million that has been allocated for the hiring 600 additional specialist teachers.

Rick Johnson, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, said talks have faltered in the nine districts because teachers "are asking for things outside the framework that was developed" by the province and the teachers' federation.

"The minister has said really clearly and has said all along if the work to rule is accelerated, he will pull (the offer) off the table," Johnson said. "It's pretty clear. If you want the talks to continue and you want access to lighter work loads and more preparation time and more money, get off the work to rule."

Emily Noble, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said she believes the provincial offer will eventually be restored to the affected boards.

Conservative education critic Frank Klees said the government's negotiating strategy has failed completely in nine cases and is in question in 18 other boards where settlements have yet to be reached.