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Ontario elementary teachers hold strike votes until Oct. 17

Teachers in Ontario's public elementary schools are set to start voting today on whether they want to give their union a strike mandate. Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) headquarters is seen in Toronto, Monday, March 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO — Monday marked the start of strike votes for Ontario's public elementary school teachers, with their union and others frustrated with the slow pace of more than a year of bargaining for a new contract.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is holding in-person strike votes for its members between Monday and Oct. 17, with teachers in various regions voting on different days. The first meetings and votes were set Monday for teachers in the Ottawa-Carleton and Upper Grand school boards.

ETFO President Karen Brown said if members vote in favour of a strike, it doesn't necessarily mean teachers will walk off the job.

"A strong strike vote result will help ETFO communicate to the Ford government that they must get serious about bargaining," she wrote in a statement. 

"While we are now working with a conciliator to help us explore all possible options in reaching agreements that are fair for ETFO members, central strike votes are another tool we can use to help us achieve the best working conditions and learning conditions possible.”

Since the union filed for conciliation last month, there has been some movement on key issues at the bargaining table, Brown said.

ETFO has rejected a government proposal to use binding arbitration in order to get a deal, something the union representing public high school teachers has tentatively accepted.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation tentatively agreed to negotiate with the government until the end of October and then move to binding arbitration, which would eliminate the possibility of a strike. But its largest teacher bargaining unit is not in favour and members have until Sept. 27 to vote on whether to move forward with that bargaining path.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has urged the other teachers' unions to accept the same deal, but they have said no.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association is holding strike votes on Oct. 18 and 19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2023.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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