Toronto Catholic elementary teachers threaten to strike next week, board says

Catholic elementary school teachers in Toronto are threatening to strike next week if a tentative deal cannot be struck with the board.

In a letter sent to families on Wednesday, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) said it received notice from the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers union (TECT) on Tuesday evening of a “full strike at one or more schools” beginning on Monday.

Read more: Ontario education minister tells Toronto Catholic teachers’ union ‘enough is enough’

The board said it was “shocked to receive TECT’s notice,” adding that it is “disappointed” that the TECT is “choosing to disrupt student learning by threatening to go on strike.”

The board said the union is threatening to go on strike over two main issues: absenteeism and staffing levels and assignments.

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“Absenteeism continues to be a serious issue that impacts the classroom experience for students,” the letter reads.

The board claims TECT wants to prevent it from “supporting teachers while also improving attendance at work.”

The board also said the TECT union wants to limit the manner in which the board determines staffing levels and classroom assignments.

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“We recognize how difficult the last few years have been for staff, students, and families during the pandemic and appreciate all that our teachers continue to do to support students during this difficult time,” the letter reads.

However, the TCDSB said it is “inexcusable” that the TECT union “wants to halt student learning by threatening to strike after all that students have been through during the pandemic in order to prevent the Board from providing absenteeism support and managing staffing processes.”

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The TCDSB said it is available to meet “today or any day” to reach a deal with the TECT union.

Global News reached out to TECT for comment, but did not hear back by time of publication.

According to the TECT website, the union represents more than 4,000 elementary teachers who work in the TCDSB.

Read more: Some Ontario teachers refuse work over school COVID concerns

In a statement emailed to Global News on Wednesday, Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the “most recent provocations from the Toronto Catholic elementary teachers union to strike and subsequently close schools is wrong.”

“These teacher union strikes are an affront to the interests of children who deserve to be in school,” Lecce said.

“On behalf of tens of thousands of families who seek stability as Ontario gets through these challenges of Omicron: call off the strikes,” he continued.

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The news of the potential strike comes just one week after the TCDSB reopened its schools for in-person learning.

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Students and staff had been learning remotely after the province shuttered schools after the holidays in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.

A massive snowstorm last Monday also forced the schools to remain closed until mid-week.

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