Talks break off with Ontario grade school teachers

Contract talks have collapsed with Ontario’s public elementary school teachers, their union said Friday, an announcement sure to upset among parents who don’t want their kids caught in labour strife.

“We’re shocked at this development,” Sam Hammond, the president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), wrote in a update to members.

Hammond accused the Liberal government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association of walking away from talks and refusing to continue bargaining — and hinted at even tougher action in schools where labour strife has already cost 800,000 public elementary school kids field trips and parents chances to meet with teachers.

“ETFO will be consulting with our local presidents on Monday to discuss next steps, given that the government and (school boards) have walked away from central bargaining,” Hammond wrote.

“Although progress during our discussions was proceeding at a very slow pace, ETFO was prepared to put in the time necessary to reach a fair central agreement. It appears the other parties were not prepared to do the same,” he wrote.

The union asked for other dates to continue discussions, but the government and school boards association refused to provide dates, Hammond claimed.

The union announced the breakdown Friday evening to its 74,000 members, who have been under strict orders since last spring to withhold services they would normally provide, a work-to-rule campaign whose casualties have included standardized tests and report card comments.

Ontario Minister Liz Sandals couldn’t be reached for comment Friday night.

The breakdown of talks comes after the government settled with two other unions representing English Catholic teachers and public high school teachers.

The contract for public elementary teachers expired last August.

About Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press, Postmedia News