Labour dispute increases
school chaos

TORONTO – Time is running out for the TCDSB and Catholic elementary teachers in Toronto to reach a deal in the labour dispute. The union representing Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT) has given formal notice to strike at one or more schools as of January 31, 2022.

Julie Altomare-DiNunzio, President of TECT told the Corriere that meetings between the Union and the TCDSB will continue into the weekend in efforts to reach a deal. “We are fighting for our students at the bargaining table, to maintain the current practices that ensure stability in the staffing process so there is consistency, and students receive the best possible holistic, emotional, social and academic supports”, she said in an emailed statement.

The union, which represents close to 5,000 teachers at more than 100 Catholic schools, have been working without a contract since the last collective agreement lapsed in 2019. If both parties fail to come to a resolution over the weekend, teachers will withdraw instructional services on Monday.

The Board reacted to the union’s strike notice with shock. In a letter sent to TCDSB families (January 26), and posted on their website, the Board said: “It is inexcusable that the local union (TECT) wants to halt student learning by threatening to strike after all that students have been through during the pandemic in order to prevent the Board from providing absenteeism support and managing staffing processes”.

According to the TCDSB, the union wants to limit the Board from managing things like teacher absenteeism and classroom assignments. The Corriere asked the Director of Education and the Board Chair who authored and authorized the letter sent to parents, neither the Director of Education nor the Board Chair responded to our request for comment as at going to print.

This is the most recent example where the Board appears to hide behind anonymity. It raises the question how can anyone effectively communicate without taking ownership of the message they want to express. Who is in charge? They should sign the letters and take ownership.

Meanwhile, the local union claims that the Board “has continued to use the cover of the pandemic to make unreasonable, regressive demands at the bargaining table”.

“The Board’s punitive, costly and ineffective demands…would impact essential programs that support students, punish teachers for being sick, strip away rights and constrain our teachers’ ability to best serve their students”, the statement continued.

The Minister of Education issued a statement following the Union’s notice of strike that called the “most recent provocations” by the Union “an affront to the interest of children who deserve to be in school” and to “call off the strikes”.

In a response to the Minister’s comments, the Union president said that the Minister “should be laser-focused on providing the necessary funding and support to make schools safe rather than interfering with local bargaining”.

For thousands of families across the city, their hope is that both parties come to an agreement before students are forced out of the classroom yet again.

P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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