Ottawa teacher, education worker unions without deals as school begins

As students in Ottawa head back to school, the provincial unions representing public elementary school teachers and non-teaching staff are set to take job action.

English elementary school teachers, French teachers and support staff working on new contracts

In this Aug. 15, 2015 file photo, students hold hands as they walk with their new book bags in Miami, Fla. In Ontario, students will be going back to school Tuesday with several labour disputes still happening. (The Associated Press)
As students in Ottawa head back to school, the provincial unions representing public elementary school teachers and non-teaching staff are set to take job action.

On Sept. 3, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) began the second phase of its work-to-rule campaign.  It will see teachers refrain from taking part in any fundraising activities or planning any field trips.

The elementary school teachers are not to distribute to students any paperwork required by the school or board, or take part in "Meet the Teacher" nights outside the school day.

"It tends to be aimed at administration and jobs more related to the handling of paperwork," said Peter Giuliani, president of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers' Federation, of the eleven new actions.
Peter Giuliani, president of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers' Federation, in a file photo. (CBC)

They are in addition to a first phase of job actions, which took effect May 11. That list includes elementary school teachers not taking part in provincial testing or writing comments on report cards.

Whether students see the second phase of work-to-rule actually take effect in their schools next week may depend on negotations between the province and ETFO, which resumed Tuesday in Toronto.

"Any time I hear negotiations are going a number of days in a row you're always hopeful that progress is being made," said Giuliani, who is not privy to what is taking place at the bargaining table.

On Tuesday, teachers in Ottawa's two French-language school boards returned to their classrooms still without a contract.

The Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens has negotiations with the province scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10.

Its members voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike in June but are not currently taking any job action.

Support staff feels overlooked

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says Ontario is giving teachers unions more attention than its members, which include early childhood educators, educational assistants, speech pathologists, office administrators, custodians, technicians, and others.

"The teachers had twenty odd face-to-face bargaining dates and we got only a handful," said Liz Harrison, president of CUPE Local 4154, which represents support staff with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario.

"We really see it as a lack of respect not to appreciate the work that we do in schools."

"We have completely different issues," said Harrison, citing average salaries that are far lower than those of teachers.

As of Thurs. Sept. 10, CUPE members are in a strike position and will be working to rule. That means doing only the hours and work they are supposed to and not helping out in extra ways, Harrison said. The union could eventually ramp up to rotating strikes, or a provincewide strike, she added.

CUPE has talks planned with the province Sept. 10 and 11, according to Harrison.

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals speaks at a press conference in Toronto on Monday, May 25, 2015. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
"We continue to actively negotiate and have scheduled bargaining dates with all remaining teachers' and education workers' unions, including CUPE, in an effort to achieve central agreements and avoid disruption to the school year," said Ontario's education minister, Liz Sandals, in an emailed statement.

Sandals added that she's pleased to have reached central tentative agreements with Ontario's Catholic teachers and English public high school teachers in August.

She says those tentative agreements are "consistent with the government's net-zero bargaining framework," in which all wage increases must be at least offset by savings. 

About the Author

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past decade, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.