Two Ontario teachers’ unions reach settlement with government on labour complaint about controversial policy
Two of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions – The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) – said that they have reached settlements with the Ford government regarding a complaint the unions had filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board earlier this month.
Under the terms of the settlement, Ontario government confirmed to the unions that the use of a controversial Early Reading Screening Tool by teachers is no longer mandatory for the 2023-24 school year, a contentious issue which was a point of bargaining between the unions and the government.
On July 28, the provincial government issued Program/Policy Memorandum 168 (PPM 168), stating that Ontario teachers in publicly funded schools must complete annual early reading screenings for all students in Year 2 of Kindergarten through Grade 2, starting this school year. Early reading screening was to be used to assess a child’s reading levels in early school years.
ETFO and OECTA – that represent a combined number of 125,000 teachers across the province – asserted that by implementing this memorandum, the Ford government had violated the ongoing bargaining talks with the unions, as this issue has been a topic of discussion at the bargaining table.
The unions believe that PPM 168 infringes upon existing central agreements that include provisions confirming the ability of teachers to exercise their professional judgement when choosing and conducting diagnostic tests to meet student needs. According to the unions, PPM 168 prohibits those collective agreements because it required teachers to use a mandatory Early Reading Screener Tool, undermining their professional understanding of their students.
The unions have also said that the tool is unfair to students from different backgrounds.
As bargaining talks are still ongoing, the unions said that the implementation of PPM 168 went against the bargaining process by the government.
“Since bargaining for new central agreements is ongoing, a statutory freeze on collective agreement language
remains in effect. This means that the terms and conditions of ETFO and OECTA expired collective agreements
remain in force, and must be respected by the involved parties until a new collective agreement is reached,” the statement said.
Two weeks ago, #ETFO and @OECTAProv filed unfair labour practice complaints with the OLRB, asserting the Ford government violated its legal obligation to bargain in good faith by implementing PPM 168, as this was a topic of discussion at the bargaining table.
Prior to the start… pic.twitter.com/JhubIt67lK
— Elementary Educators (@ETFOeducators) August 23, 2023