Elementary teachers union calls for conciliation in contract talks

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SUDBURY – Ontario elementary school teachers have requested a conciliation officer be part of contract talks with the province of Ontario. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) says bargaining with the Ontario government has reached a virtual standstill.

“Yes, we have requested a conciliator to help out with the negotiations,” said Barb Blasutti, president of the ETFO Rainbow District Local. “The talks are moving very slowly and we are asking the Ministry of Labour to address the lack of progress in the negotiations.”

Ms. Blasutti explained, “one of our major concerns is the position being taken by the province to make very significant strips in the agreement, with the ETFO and occasional teachers losing $150 million in strips from the collective agreement; that are only being brought to the ETFO table. We are the only education union where this level of (cuts) is being looked at,” noting it would include cuts in Indigenous studies, early learning, English language and learners. These are already things that had been negotiated and agreed upon in the 2017 contract negotiations.  

“This government won’t commit more funding to elementary students and their intention is to erode the current Kindergarten program,” said Ms. Blasutti. 

“Bringing in a conciliator will hopefully address the lack of progress that has been made in negotiations,” continued Ms. Blasutti. She pointed out the teachers contract expired on August 31, but discussions with the government and school boards have been on-going since June.

The ETFO has been holding strike vote meetings throughout the province since early September and the union says the results will be announced in early November.

Earlier this week, the union representing public high school teachers said it would be also be holding a strike vote.