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Canada

Teachers unions, governments spar ahead of school start

The head of the union representing the province’s elementary teachers complained about Premier Doug Ford calling union leaders names before calling Ford himself a bully.

Sam Hammond was speaking to union activists from across the province at the AGM of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO.)

“We know why we are fighting this Conservative government,” Hammond said, citing changes to the education system including increased class size and changes to the all-day kindergarten program.

“We’re not going to stand by and allow that to happen,” Hammond told reporters when asked about replacing some teachers in all-day kindergarten with early childhood educators for part of the day.

The ETFO showcased a television ad that will run across the province promising to stand up to “conservative cuts that hurt our kids.” The ad ended by saying, “when you send your kids to school, they become our kids too.”

So with a media battle already underway, are teachers looking for a fight before the school year starts?

“No one wants a battle but we won’t shy away from that kind of a situation and we’re prepared for that,” Hammond said.

Harvey Bischoff, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF,) which represents high school teachers, said his members would be in the classroom for the first day of school but isn’t hopeful about negotiations.

Bischoff said union members need to be ready to fight in these contract talks.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that while he has heard the words from union leaders about preparing for battle, he and the government have a different view.

“This government and the Premier is preparing for the first day of class,” Lecce said.

Lecce has called for all sides to quickly wrap up contract negotiations to ensure the school year is not interrupted.

He said all sides need to have predictability as the fall approaches.

“Parents deserve that and so do the educators and students that we serve,” Lecce said.

The minister said he is optimistic contracts can be reached with all unions without interruption for students.

School starts for most students on Sept. 3 across the English system in Ontario and Aug. 27 in many French language schools.

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