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Elementary teachers to ramp up work to rule

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TORONTO—Ontario's elementary teachers will soon be ramping up their work-to-rule campaign by not planning any new field trips or distributing letters or memos from schools and boards.

Public high school and elementary teachers are both increasing pressure on the government in the coming week amid tense and plodding contract talks.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario says it will be starting phase two of its work to rule tomorrow.

In addition to the measures affecting field trips and letters being sent home, teachers will not collect money for school-based activities except those for charity, participate in performance appraisals, or post learning goals in the classroom if an administrator asks.

The teachers' first phase of the work-to-rule campaign, which started Nov. 26, has teachers not completing Term 1 report cards, not participating in any professional learning from their school board or the ministry outside of school hours, and not doing any online training by the ministry.

High school teachers, meanwhile, are planning one-day strikes on Wednesday in nine school boards. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation job action follows a province-wide strike a week earlier.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has urged OSSTF to sit down with the government and a third-party mediator in a bid to reach an agreement so students can remain in school.

Union president Harvey Bischof said in a statement Saturday that the union will accept the mediation offer and postpone the upcoming one-day strike if Lecce removes the “unilateral” increases to class sizes and mandatory e-learning, and exempts them from recently passed legislation limiting all public sector workers to one-per-cent wage increases.

“The minister cannot claim that he is fighting for students and laser-focused on keeping students in class while at the same time insisting that cuts to their education and legislative interference in free collective bargaining remain in place,” Bischof said in a statement.

On Saturday, Lecce called on OSSTF to agree to mediation without any preconditions.

The secondary teachers say they are pushing back against the Progressive Conservative government's plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses.

But Lecce said the key issue at the bargaining table is compensation, with the province offering a one-per-cent annual wage increase, and the union asking for around two per cent. He has said that two per cent would cost $1.5 billion over the life of a contract because it would have to apply to all teacher and education worker deals.

“This demonstrates yet again that if OSSTF does not get their demands—including a $1.5-billion increase to compensation for all education workers—they will continue to strike and hurt our kids,” Lecce said in a statement.

“Enough with the games that singularly hurt our kids.”

Ontario's Catholic teachers will be in a legal strike position on Dec. 21, over the winter break, and while they don't have any job action plans yet, their union said it should be “another wake-up call” for the government.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association is also angered by the government's class size and online learning plans.

The government announced in the spring that it was increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 over four years and requiring four online credits to graduate.

In recent weeks, it has offered a class-size increase to 25 instead, and dropped the e-learning requirement to two courses.

But the teachers don't want any mandatory online courses or any class size increases. They note that the government's offer of increasing class sizes to the lower target of 25 would also mean local class size limits are removed, essentially allowing the province to see the number of students per class climb indefinitely.

Elementary teachers have said their key issues are more supports for students with special needs, addressing violence in schools and preserving full-day kindergarten. They are also seeking higher wage increases than the government's offer.

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