"These negotiations are about wages and benefits" - Ontario Minister of Education on ETFO strikes

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Agatha Farmer

As Ontario's public elementary school teachers begin their first province wide strike today Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, issued the following statement on Feb. 6 regarding continued escalation by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO);

"Our government has put forward reasonable proposals at the negotiating table, including a commitment to maintain full-day kindergarten, and it is deeply disappointing parents are still seeing repeated escalation at the expense of our students to advance higher compensation, including more generous benefit plans. We firmly believe students should be in class, and we continue to stand ready to negotiate and reach a deal Ontario students deserve."

Two days ago during an interview with Toronto's CFRB 1010 Lecce further criticized the teachers unions when he said that "these negotiations are about wages and benefits. Let's be under no illusions, it always, always is." Earlier this week Lecce also confirmed that the Ford government has no plans to remove full-day Kindergarten which was a significant negotiation point for ETFO.

On Jan. 31 after talks broke off once again ETFO president Sam Hammond indicated that the union has “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,” Hammond said. “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.”

ETFO will continue rotating school board strikes and has added a province wide day strike to the roster of labour actions. Today, Feb. 6 Muskoka public elementary schools are on their second closure of the week. If an agreement is not reached by next week the elementary teachers union has announced two days of strikes on Feb 11 and 13 for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.

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