Toronto

Strikes to ramp up as talks between Ontario and public elementary teachers end with no deal

Contract talks between the Ontario's public elementary teachers and the government have ended without a deal.

ETFO had said it would ramp up its strikes next week if a deal was not reached Friday

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario had said it would ramp up its strikes next week if a deal was not reached Friday. (CBC)

Contract talks between the Ontario's public elementary teachers and the government have ended without a deal.

In a statement Friday night, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said "the mediator has called off discussions for now."

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario had said it would ramp up its strikes next week if a deal was not reached Friday.

"ETFO made every effort over the past three days to move negotiations forward but it became increasingly clear that the Ford government was not willing to address key issues in any meaningful way," ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement Friday.

"For example, the government wants to reduce funding to support the learning needs of special education students, and it wants ETFO to agree to those cuts at the bargaining table. We can't do that."

The elementary teachers have been holding one-day, rotating strikes for two weeks. Friday's targeted the Peel and Hamilton-Wentworth boards, but the union has said its workers planned to walk out at each board twice a week starting Monday if no deal was reached.

Lecce's statement did suggest the province is committing to preserving full-day kindergarten, one of the union's key demands.

"Over the past few days, the Government has further demonstrated our focus on keeping kids in class through a voluntary agreement. As part of that commitment, and to further underscore my public statements, we have affirmed in writing that we will be maintaining Ontario's world-class kindergarten program," he said.

The two sides returned to the bargaining table Wednesday for the first time since Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, in another crack in the teacher-government stalemate, the province's English Catholic teachers say they will return to the bargaining table after talks broke off earlier this month. 

The union representing French teachers, which has been in regular talks with the government, wrapped up two days of talks Thursday and now has two more days scheduled for next week. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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