Ontario elementary school teachers approve agreement with province
An empty classroom is seen in this undated file photo. (Source: iStock, DONGSEON_KIM)
TORONTO -- The union representing elementary teachers in Ontario has ratified an agreement with the provincial government, officially ending a months-long battle that resulted in numerous rotating strikes and job action.
In a news release issued Tuesday morning, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said the majority of its members voted in favour of accepting the tentative agreement that was reached in mid-March.
About 97 per cent of teachers and occasional teachers voted to approve the agreement, the union said, and 94 per cent of education workers voted in favour of moving forward with the new contract.
“Our goal was to defend public education and the working and learning conditions that have made Ontario’s education system one of the best in the world,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.
“While these negotiations were prolonged and difficult, our educators – with the support from parents and other community members – stood firm in the face of planned government cuts to education.”
According to the union, the new agreements include an investment in special education, a withdrawal of a $150 million funding cut to public elementary spending and “sustainable funding for member benefits.”
Class sizes and the current full-day kindergarten model will also be maintained.
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce congratulated the union for ratifying the tentative agreement, saying that the government’s primary objective was to “reach a good deal” with teachers’ and unions.
“Teachers and education workers play a critical role in promoting positive learning environments for students in all corners of our province—they provide a safe and stimulating educational environment that promotes growth and learning,” he said.
“Our government demonstrated an unwavering commitment to reaching deals that will protect our children's futures and invest in their potential.”
The government had previously said that it would not increase wages and benefits for members by more than one per cent per year, while all the major education unions had asked for a two per cent increase to salaries and around six per cent increase on benefits.
ETFO is the largest teachers' union in the province, representing 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals.
The union said they will now be working with school boards to negotiate local collective agreements.
“Along with our members, we want to thank parents and other supporters for standing together to defend public education over this past year,” Hammond said.
All four of the province’s teachers’ union have signed tentative agreements with the province.
Schools in Ontario have been closed since March Break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the weekend, the province announced that students will not be able to return to class until at least May 31.