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Why Ontario schools could soon face labour disruptions

Ontario’s students are settling into the new school year with the threat of labour disruption hanging in the air.

Contracts for the five major unions representing teachers and education workers expired in September, and some unions are now making moves toward possible job action.

Here’s a detailed timeline of key moments in the ongoing dispute between the province and its public school teachers.

January 2017

The Liberal government reaches a tentative two-year contract extension with the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), which represents the province’s French-language teachers.

The deal extends to August 2019, more than a year after the fixed election date of June 7, 2018.

February 2017

Ontario reaches two-year extension agreements with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO)  and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).

The elementary school deal includes an agreement to cap kindergarten class sizes at 30 students. No previous cap existed.

April 2017

Ontario’s teachers’ unions ratify a series of two-year extensions negotiated with the Wynne government, preserving labour peace beyond the 2018 provincial election.

All high school, elementary, English Catholic and French teachers, as well as support staff receive four per cent salary increases over two years.

The province also agrees to $275 million in additional funding earmarked for the hiring of new teachers and education workers.

January 2018

Former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford enters the PC leadership race after Patrick Brown resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct.

February 2018

Ford says he will review the updated sex-ed curriculum if nominated as PC leader. The new curriculum was rolled out by the Liberal government in 2015.

“Sex-ed curriculum should be about facts, not teaching Liberal ideology,” Ford said at the time.

May 2018

Ford, now PC leader, tweets that a PC government would scrap the “discovery math” program and replace the sex-ed curriculum with an “age-appropriate” version after consultations with parents.

During a rally in Windsor, Ford also promises that no public sector workers will lose their jobs if he is elected.

“I say it every night and I’m going to say it again and again: no one, no one will lose their job,” he said.

June 2018

Ford and the Progressive Conservatives are elected to a majority government.

The incoming government quickly announces a public sector hiring freeze in a bid to limit spending. The finance minister subsequently announces the province faces a deficit of about $15 billion — a figure disputed by the Opposition.

August 2018

The PC government reveals an interim sex-ed curriculum for elementary school teachers, and suggests there will be consequences for teachers who continue to teach the 2015 version.

The high school health and physical education curriculum remains unchanged.

A government document urges any parent who believes a teacher is “jeopardizing their child’s education by deliberately ignoring Ontario’s curriculum” to contact an investigations department.

Teachers’ unions dub that a “snitch line.”

September 2018

ETFO launches a legal challenge against the PC plan to scrap the sex-ed curriculum.

The union requests an injunction that would keep the updated curriculum in place and stop the so-called “snitch line” where parents can report non-compliant teachers.

“Teachers will not be muzzled by a government whose political agenda takes precedence over the protection and education of their students,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.

January 2019

The Ford government announces new consultations with educators on class sizes and hiring practices.

The PCs say they will consider removing class size caps for kindergarten and Grades 1-3.

Premier Doug Ford also suggests that the future of full-day kindergarten will be put under review.

“I can assure you one thing — any decision that’s made is going to be better, it’s not going to be worse,” said Ford. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s a lot of areas of education that are broken that need to be fixed.”

Full-day kindergarten was introduced by the Dalton McGuinty government in 2014 and costs Ontario $1.5 billion per year.

February 2019

A court dismisses ETFO’s legal challenge over the Ford government’s scrapping of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.

The province announces that full day learning will remain in place for four and five-year-olds, but it won’t necessarilty be full-day kindergarten as it currently exists.

March 2019

Premier Doug Ford hedges on a campaign promise that no public sector workers would lose their jobs under a PC government. A spokesperson now says only “front-line” workers will be protected.

Nurses, education workers and child advocate staff are among those now facing layoffs.

The PCs ask Ontario’s school boards to institute a hiring freeze.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson also announces significant changes to Ontario’s education system, including increased intermediate and high school class sizes, new elementary math and sex-ed curricula and a ban on cell phones in the classroom.

The changes come after a months-long consultation process that, according to the government, obtained feedback from 72,000 different stakeholders, including educators, parents and unions.

Teachers’ unions say the larger class sizes will cost thousands of jobs, although Thompson promises that no teachers will “involuntarily” lose their jobs.

April 2019

A provincial memo obtained by CBC Toronto reveals a plan to cut 3,475 teaching positions over four years, saving the province $851 million. The government pegs its deficit at $13.5 billion in its first budget.

Thousands of educators and protesters march on the grounds of Queen’s Park in response to the reforms announced in March.

With bargaining talks set to begin before contracts expire in August, Ford warns Ontario teachers not to “pull this strike nonsense.”

Ford also suggests that unions have been unfairly targeting his government.

“Before the ink was even dry on election day they declared war on us — the unions, not the teachers,” he said.

Ontario students hold a province-wide walkout to protest against the education changes.

June 2019

Ford shuffles his cabinet, replacing Lisa Thompson with Stephen Lecce as education minister.

July 2019

OSSTF tells CBC News that contract negotiations have stalled, and that high school teachers will not have a new contract by the start of the school year.

August 2019

The PC government introduces a new sex-ed curriculum in time for the 2019-2020 school year, which includes most of the elements in the 2015 version introduced by the Liberals.

“We’re giving young people the tools they need to succeed,” said Lecce.

Contracts for the five major unions representing teachers and education workers expire at the end of August.

September 2019

CUPE, which represents some 55,000 education workers, triggers a countdown toward a potential strike, which could begin as soon as Sept. 23.

Lecce says he is “disappointed that CUPE has decided to take this action,” and later says the province is working “around the clock” on negotiations with education workers.

Later in September, ETFO announces that its members will be asked to vote on a strike mandate during meetings in September and October.


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Fonte: CBC

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