Ontario elementary school teachers and some support staff engaging in work-to-rule campaigns could soon see their paycheques docked, Premier Kathleen Wynne says.

Wynne said Friday that unions will receive five days' notice that the terms of their employment could be changed after Nov. 1 if:

  • A new labour deal isn't in place.
  • If work-to-rule job actions resume while talks continue.

A group of unions that includes the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), support staff with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), do not yet have contracts. Some have taken job action that includes not performing certain duties, such as filling out report cards or in the case of CUPE, cleaning some areas in school buildings.

Yesterday, the ETFO threatened to step up job action by withdrawing extracurricular activities starting Wednesday. At a news conference Friday, Wynne said the job actions are negatively affecting students and "must stop."

 "Schools are increasingly dirty and activities such as … completion of report cards are not taking place," said Wynne. "This cannot go on. Our children deserve better."

She said school boards have requested consent from the government to dock the pay of teachers and staff who aren't performing their duties. The government won't give that permission until Nov. 1, which would then trigger five days' notice of the impending action.

Wynne made the announcement after a one-hour meeting with union officials and expressed frustration that deals haven't been reached. 

"We are committed to a fair bargaining process," she said. "But at some point, that process must come to a conclusion."

The government has reached agreements with three other teachers' federations and Wynne has said ETFO and the other unions still without contracts must reach similar deals. Those agreements included wage increases and lump sum payments, and total payments of $2.5 million to the unions because of the lengthy negotiations.   

ETFO stands ground

Despite Wynne's comments, ETFO president Sam Hammond said he would not stop the work-to-rule measures while labour talks take place.  

"I'm not going to respond to threats," he said.

Hammond said although there are now bargaining dates set with the province, his members won't be backing down from withdrawing extracurricular activities next week.

"We've got a commitment to bargain, hopefully we'll get a deal," he said.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said Friday that Ontario's Labour Relations Act allows employers to change contract terms — including the terms of compensation — with five days' notice during job action.

Wynne said she hopes deals can be reached ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline. Talks are slated to resume today.

With files from CBC's Mike Crawley, The Canadian Press