Ontario parents are preparing for their children’s return to school this fall, but the uncertainty surrounding ongoing teacher contract negotiations has left many with concerns. Currently, none of the four unions representing teachers and some education workers in Ontario have reached a consensus with the provincial government on a new collective agreement. This has led to the possibility of potential strikes in the upcoming months.
The unions involved in the negotiations are the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO). While three of the unions have committed to strike votes in the fall, the OSSTF remains the only union that has not rejected the province’s offer of binding interest arbitration.
It is important for parents to understand that a strike is not imminent. The unions have scheduled their strike votes from mid-September to mid-November, showing that work action is unlikely to occur for a few months, if at all. Furthermore, members must vote in favor of a strike before any action is planned.
ETFO has taken steps to request conciliation, a formal mediation process where a neutral third-party will assist in finding a resolution between the two sides. This is a common process before engaging in any strikes or work action. If no agreement is reached during conciliation, a “no-board” notice will be issued, initiating a 16-day countdown to a legal strike or work action.
In the event of teacher job action, there are alternatives to a full-out strike. For instance, teachers may choose to remove themselves from extra-curricular activities and limit their involvement to the minimum required in the classroom. Last year, during a similar dispute, teachers participated in a one-day walkout and rotating one-day strikes in protest of the province’s forced contract legislation. However, there was no widespread, multi-day strike.
The primary motivations behind the ongoing negotiations are not limited to salary increases. Teachers have emphasized concerns regarding violence in schools and hiring practices. While the province has offered a 1.25% annual increase for four years, teachers have requested a one percent annual increase in addition to a cost of living adjustment tied to inflation.
Parents are advised to stay informed about any developments in the teacher contract negotiations by regularly checking their school board’s website and staying in touch with their child’s school.