TECT threatens strike
in labour dispute with TCDSB

TORONTO – Things may get a little more difficult for some Toronto area students this coming Monday. The Toronto Catholic Elementary Teachers Union (TECT) is prepared to commence strike action as early as next week. If TECT and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) fail to reach an agreement in the next few days, teachers are in a position to stop instruction services as of January 31, 2022.

The main issue appears to be that of absenteeism. In a letter sent to TCDSB families and posted on the TCDSB’s website (January 26), the Board expressed shock and disappointment with TECT’s notice of strike action. The TCDSB claims TECT wants to limit the Board from managing important matters like teacher absenteeism and other staffing processes. Some of those processes include staffing levels and classroom assignments which the Board said “are managed in a way that reduces disruption to students”

The issue of absenteeism is a problematic one, made even more challenging due to the pandemic and Covid-19 infection and exposure. Prior to TECT releasing an official statement, Julie Altomare-Di Nunzio, President of TECT, told the Corriere, “We can’t believe any employer would question absenteeism when people are following health and safety protocols from Toronto Public Health as well as the Board’s own protocols”.

Since 2019, TECT members have been without a contract and the local union has been at the bargaining table with the TCDSB for nearly one year with no end in sight.

The notice of strike follows months of escalating job action which affected things like parent-teacher interviews and the cancellation of extra-curricular activities.

“For teachers, this is a tremendously difficult action to take. We know how important it is to have students in the classroom”, Altomare-DiNunzio said. “We have never asked teachers to break work-to-rule sanctions”, she added.

The union president said, “we want to be able to have a collaborative dialogue that results in a fair and just agreement that supports our Catholic students and our teachers”, adding, “there are no monetary items on the table.”

Neither party indicated a timeline as to when such an agreement may be achieved. In the event there is no resolution in the dispute before Monday, the strike could have serious consequences on the physical, mental and academic status of students.

The TCDSB Director of Education nor the Board Chair responded to our request for comment as at going to print.

However, the Board’s letter to parents indicated that “the TCDSB will continue to do all that it can to reach a fair and just agreement”. It also read, “the TCDSB will continue to advocate on behalf of our students to ensure TECT’s demands do not negatively impact the quality of student education”.

P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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