Elementary teachers to halt field trips as work-to-rule campaign ramps up

Ontario's elementary teachers will kick off the second phase of their work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday, as the union representing high school teachers plans a one-day strike for the same week.

Move comes as high school teachers' union plans 1-day strike for Wednesday

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, joins protesting public high school teachers as they gather outside Ogden Junior Public School in Toronto. Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce made an announcement there on Nov. 27. The union says it plans to start the second phase of its work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Ontario's elementary teachers will soon be ramping up their work-to-rule campaign by not planning any new field trips or distributing letters or memos from schools and boards.

Public high school and elementary teachers are both increasing pressure on the government in the coming week amid tense and plodding contract talks.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario says it will be starting the second phase of its work-to-rule campaign on Tuesday. In addition to the measures affecting field trips and letters being sent home, teachers will not collect money for school-based activities except those for charity, participate in performance appraisals, or post learning goals in the classroom if an administrator asks.

The teachers' first phase of the work-to-rule campaign, which started Nov. 26, has teachers not completing Term 1 report cards, not participating in any professional learning from their school board or the ministry outside of school hours, and not doing any online training by the ministry.

News of their increasing job action comes as the union representing high school teachers plans one-day strikes on Wednesday in nine school boards. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) job action follows a province-wide strike a week earlier.

The secondary teachers say they are pushing back against the Progressive Conservative government's plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has condemned increasing escalation by teacher unions, saying it's contrary to parents' priorities. (CBC)

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the key issue at the bargaining table was compensation, with the province offering a one per cent annual wage increase, and the union asking for around two per cent. He has condemned increasing escalation by teacher unions, saying it's contrary to parents' priorities.

The minister urged the union to sit down with the government and a third-party mediator in a bid to reach an agreement so students can remain in school.

OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said in a statement Saturday that the union will accept the mediation offer and postpone the upcoming one-day strike if Lecce removes the "unilateral" increases to class sizes and e-learning, and exempts them from recently passed legislation limiting all public sector workers to one per cent wage increases.

"The minister cannot claim that he is fighting for students and laser-focused on keeping students in class while at the same time insisting that cuts to their education and legislative interference in free collective bargaining remain in place," Bischof said in a statement.

Catholic teachers in legal strike position Dec. 21

Ontario's Catholic teachers, meanwhile, will be in a legal strike position on Dec. 21, over the winter break, and while they don't have any job action plans yet, their union said it should be "another wake-up call" for the government.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association is also angered by the government's class size and online learning plans.

The government announced in the spring that it was increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 students over four years and requiring students to complete four online credits to graduate. In recent weeks, it has offered a class-size increase to 25 instead, and dropped the e-learning requirement to two courses.

But the teachers don't want any mandatory online courses or any class size increases. They note that the government's offer of increasing class sizes to the lower target of 25 would also mean local class size limits are removed, essentially allowing the province to see the number of students per class climb indefinitely.

Elementary teachers have said their key issues are more supports for students with special needs, addressing violence in schools and preserving full-day kindergarten. They are also seeking higher wage increases than the government's offer.