The union representing Ontario’s public elementary teachers says it will not take any work-to-rule strike action that would jeopardize students’ safety.

In statement released on Saturday, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said its teachers are “continuing to provide daily instruction to students and have the safety of their students as a prime objective.”

The statement comes as a response to recent letter by the Ontario Principals’ Council accusing the EFTO’s work-to-rule campaign of creating unsafe conditions for students.

“If a teacher is absent, it is up to the administration to call in an occasional (supply) teacher as they would normally do and there are certainly many occasional teachers ready to work at a moment’s notice,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.

“I can only surmise that principals are not adhering to this practice as a way of undermining ETFO’s legal work-to-rule action.”

Hammond said that under the union’s work-to-rule strike action, teachers will not replace an absent teacher. But if directed by a school administrator, a teacher will take the class “under protest” to “ensure that students are not left unattended.”

The solution, Hammond said, is for the EFTO, the provincial government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association to return to the bargaining table in order to reach a deal.

“Our strike action was designed to ensure that teachers continue to provide daily instruction to their students. If administrators are being inconvenienced by our work-to-rule then they should press the government and OPSBA to return as quickly as possible to the bargaining table.”

ETFO began Phase 3 of the work-to-rule on Monday. Members of ETFO have been without contracts for a year, and have been in a legal strike position since May.

As of Sept. 21, the union's 78,000 teachers and occasional teachers says they willno longer:

  • Fill in for an absent teacher or take on additional students if a class is collapsed because an occasional teacher has not been retained
  • Take on additional duties during regularly scheduled preparation time (including teaching in another class)
  • Participate in teacher performance appraisal meetings, unless the member is on an improvement plan or long-term occasional assignment
  • Respond to email, electronic or phone communication from administrators unless it involves the safety of others, absences, day plans or occasional teacher assignments
  • Update classroom websites, blogs or newsletters
  • Submit any long-range or short-range plans, or literacy and numeracy block plans
  • Update Individual Education Plans (IEPs) after the 30th day of school deadline
  • Participate in any in-school meetings or professional learning activities on PA days, opting instead to use the time for their own professional development within the classroom
  • Prepare report card comments or complete or package progress reports, though they will provide administrators with a hard copy list of learning skills and work habits ratings
  • Conduct parent interview related to the progress report cards, unless there are concerns identified by the teacher about a child's progress
  • Act as division chairs or team leads.

Teachers willalso take part in "Wynne Wednesdays" once a week, when they will:

  • Refrain from any activities that take them away from their classrooms
  • Demonstrate union solidarity by wearing ETFO buttons, caps or T-shirts, or a union colour
  • Send messages to the Minister of Education or the Ontario Public School Board Association (OPSBA) about the importance of "fair and reasonable collective bargaining"
  • Engage in planned lobbying activities including pickets, rallies and letter-writing campaigns.

The ETFO bulletin also outlined the union's "Phase 4" plans for October, when all ETFO teachers and occasional teachers could begin rotating strikes, "if sufficient progress has not occurred."

The bulletin said further details would be released later.