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Catholic teachers set to start action

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BRAMPTON, Ont.—Premier Kathleen Wynne is more optimistic now than she was a few weeks ago about having a normal return to school this fall.

But one teachers’ union says it will be working-to-rule if there’s no contract.

Ontario’s 115,000 teachers are in legal strike positions after being without contracts for a year, and are warning they won’t be doing all their normal duties without new agreements when classes resume Sept. 8.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said talks last week failed to reach a new deal so its 50,000 members won’t participate in any activities that fall outside of their contractual obligations.

Union president Ann Hawkins said the work-to-rule will start Aug. 20 when classes begin at Bishop Belleau Catholic School in Moosonee, and will expand to other schools when students return.

Earlier yesterday, Wynne said she was hopeful about reaching new contracts because the four big teachers unions either are back at the bargaining table or have scheduled dates with school boards.

OECTA has four more days of negotiations scheduled starting later this week.

Wynne warned it will be a “hard few weeks” of negotiating to reach new agreements with the teachers’ unions before school resumes.

The Liberal government—fighting a deficit of $11.9 billion—has said there is no money for salary hikes for teachers or anyone else in the public sector.

But the unions say workload, preparation time, and class size are other issues still to be resolved.

Wynne made her comments at a Brampton high school, where she announced a $46,000 grant for a sports program for youth.

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond said collective bargaining and negotiations will be discussed heavily as the organization’s annual general meeting continues in Toronto.

“Make no mistake, we will defend quality public education in this province,” he vowed during a speech at the first day of the meeting.

“We will defend our members, we will defend our collective agreements.”

Hammond, meanwhile, was re-elected president of the union yesterday for a fourth term.

He has served as ETFO president since 2009.

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