Ontario’s public elementary teachers are being advised to restore extracurricular activities in time for the spring sports season, Grade 8 graduations and end-of-year field trips.
The move is an important development in the relationship between the teachers’ union and Ontario’s new leadership, which began talking again after months of political protests and the withdrawal of extracurricular activities.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said Tuesday night that it is confident the government has “demonstrated a commitment to dealing with concrete items of importance to our members.”
The union joins its colleagues at the high-school level, who resumed their participation in extracurriculars last month after making similar progress in talks with the province.
The federation’s leaders said recently they wanted more concrete promises from Premier Kathleen Wynne before they would stop political protests.
“ETFO is suspending its advice to members regarding voluntary/extracurricular activities because of progress with the current talks and a commitment that talks to address outstanding issues will continue,” the union said in a statement on Twitter.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said both sides were working hard to repair their relationship and build a better collective bargaining process in future.
“Today's news is a great indication of the hard work all parties are putting into the repair of this valued relationship. It shows our willingness to work together, to listen to one another's concerns, and to find common ground on which we can rebuild a foundation of trust and create an effective process going forward," she said in a statement. "Our government has immense respect for the educators of this province and we recognize the important role they play in our children's lives and in communities across Ontario."
Ms. Wynne did not indicate whether her government had promised the teachers anything else to get them back to running clubs and coaching sports teams.
She has said that she will not tear up the contracts imposed earlier this year by the Liberals. Other, non-fiscal matters, however, are on the table.
Teachers began protests in September when the Liberal government introduced legislation that dictated the terms of their contracts. It imposed a 1.5-per-cent pay cut in the form of three unpaid professional development days, cut sick days from 20 to 11 and removed their ability to bank those sick days for a cash-out upon retirement.
Teachers stopped voluntary activities such as leading clubs or sports teams and offering extra help after school. Elementary teachers staged one-day walkouts shortly before Christmas.
The Ontario Liberals chose a new leader in January and talks between both unions and the government resumed under the new Premier. Those talks have focused on protecting teachers’ bargaining rights by revamping, and possibly legislating, the negotiations process.
With reports from Adrian Morrow