Parents will get three days' notice when elementary teachers and education professionals move ahead with planned strikes next month, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario said Wednesday.
A Wednesday news release from ETFO said there are currently work-to-rule strike actions occurring in four Ontario school boards, but "teachers in all other boards will also be in a strike position during December."
When that happens, planned strikes by union locals will "affect operations in each public elementary school throughout the province," ETFO said.
"It is unfortunate that we have been placed in the position of having to strike by Education Minister Laurel Broten, but we will provide parents with ample notice to ensure the safety of students," ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.
ETFO, which represents 76,000 teachers and education professionals, said the provincial government invited it to join talks with ministry officials and a mediator on Nov. 11, though the union said Broten "abruptly shut the session down."
Broten released a statement Wednesday urging the union to focus on negotiating, rather than on its strike actions.
"I am disappointed to hear that ETFO will be moving ahead with strike actions. Disrupting learning time for students is not in the best interest of students," Broten said.
The Ontario government introduced controversial legislation this fall that allows it to quash strikes and impose agreements that will freeze wages.
York Region high school teachers rejected a tentative agreement they reached with their school board, reportedly because they felt they'd be "selling out" by accepting a deal they feel was imposed by the Liberals under the new legislation.
Some teachers could be holding out, hoping that a new Liberal leader will repeal the law — as some candidates in the running have been known to be critical of the legislation in the first place.
Yet on Wednesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty defended the Putting Students First Act, saying that Ontarians want their provincial government to take "effective measures" to bring down a $14.4-billion deficit — including wage freezes.
"We think it's the best approach, it's a responsible approach and I think it's one that's broadly supported by Ontarians," McGuinty said.
High school teachers with the Upper Grand District School Board — which covers Guelph, Dufferin County and Wellington County — supported an agreement reached with the school board and approved by Broten.
However, teachers in Niagara and York Region have rejected theirs, which means that teachers can continue with strike actions including: skipping staff and department meetings, not holding parent-teacher conferences after school hours and refusing to submit student attendance records.