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Elementary teachers ratify new contract

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TORONTO—Ontario’s elementary teachers have ratified a new central contract agreement with the provincial government, bringing a formal end to their work-to-rule campaign.

Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation voted 86 percent in favour of the deal while 98 percent of union locals also voted to accept the tentative agreement reached Nov. 2.

Under ETFO’s “double majority” voting process, both union members and union locals must vote to ratify the central agreement.

“While this round of bargaining was exceptionally lengthy and difficult, ETFO members pressed for improvements related to student learning conditions such as special education, class size and composition, teacher professional judgement, and health and safety issues,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a release.

ETFO was the last of Ontario’s four big teachers’ unions to reach a new contract agreement, but the government insisted all of them were “net zero” deals, meaning any wage increases had to be offset by savings found elsewhere.

Those earlier agreements with unions representing high school teachers, Catholic teachers, and their colleagues in the province’s French school system included pay raises of 1.5 percent plus another one-percent bonus.

Education mnister Liz Sandals has said the key elements in the ETFO agreement, such as salary, are similar to those ratified earlier by the other teachers’ unions, but details have not been made public.

ETFO said its agreement calls for a review of full-day kindergarten staffing and class sizes, another review of class sizes in Grades 4-8, and promises to help develop recommendations to better support students with special needs.

“Class sizes in FDK, junior, and intermediate grades that are in line with those at the secondary level . . . should be priorities for the government and school boards on an ongoing basis,” noted Hammond.

ETFO’s 78,000 members began job action in May, escalating a work-to-rule campaign in September and again last month when they withdrew from extra-curricular activities.

But they never engaged in one-day rotating strikes as threatened.

All the teachers’ unions also must reach local agreements with school boards under the new, two-tier negotiating process introduced by the Liberal government for the latest round of bargaining.

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