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Elementary teachers want better offer

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TORONTO—Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s not happy to see public elementary teachers escalating their work-to-rule campaign and threatening one-day rotating strikes.

Wynne said she never wants to see kids and families caught in the middle of labour disputes, but is quick to point out the Elementary Teachers’ Federation is the only Ontario teachers’ union without a tentative agreement.

She noted elementary teachers will have to settle for a similar agreement as their colleagues in high schools and the Catholic system, but negotiations broke off more than a week ago.

The Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the English Catholic Teachers’ Association last week ratified deals that contained raises of 1.5 percent, plus another one-percent bonus.

But ETFO president Sam Hammond said the elementary teachers’ union was not given the same offer as other teachers, and warns it will start one-day rotating strikes if there’s no tentative agreement within two weeks.

Hammond said there’s a “significant disparity” in funding that results in larger class sizes, fewer student supports, and poorer working conditions in elementary schools.

“If the Liberal government had stayed at the table and not walked away, it’s possible we could have reached a deal by now, and the escalation of ETFO’s work-to-rule could have been avoided,” Hammond said in a release.

Wynne said she’s not concerned the union will call the one-day walkouts “Wynne Wednesdays,” insisting it’s never personal for her.

“It’s being personalized because that’s a political tactic,” she noted.

“It’s not about my personal feelings,” Wynne stressed. “It’s about how do we get an agreement that’s in the best interests of kids in this province.”

The union representing teachers in Francophone schools also has reached a tentative agreement, leaving ETFO as the only teachers’ union without a contract.

Their last contract expired in August, 2014.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees also is trying to negotiate a new contract for 50,000 non-teaching staff in Ontario schools.

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