York Region elementary teachers vote 99% in favour of approving strike

Global News has learned elementary teachers in York Region have voted 99 per cent in favour of approving a strike.

The educators with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) in York Region local held the vote Wednesday evening.

In an email sent to members, David Clegg, president of the union local, confirmed “The results of our local strike vote: 99 per cent approval of a strike. Thank you to all the members who participated this evening.”

Other union locals also held strike votes Wednesday, including the Elementary Teachers of Toronto.

The results of that vote are expected to made public soon.

Clegg told Global News on Thursday that the results of the vote are an “unequivocal indication of York Region elementary teachers’ resolve.”

“This local voted against the 2017 extension agreement largely because it prevented local bargaining,” he continued. “Our goal in local bargaining is to create a school working environment that reflects the realities of the teaching conditions in 2019.

“The York Region District School Board’s actions at the bargaining table will ultimately determine how this strike mandate is used.”

ETFO – which represents 83,000 public elementary teachers across the province – has been holding strike vote meetings throughout the province since September.

Teachers in Ontario are in ongoing negotiations with the province for new contracts.

ETFO’s collective agreement expired on Aug. 31.

The ETFO and other major education unions have been critical of the government’s overall direction since taking power last June, including recent moves to increase class sizes for Grade 4 and higher, mandate e-learning courses and reduce per-student funding to boards.

“ETFO has been clear at the bargaining table about what we want to achieve,” Sam Hammond, president of the ETFO, said in a statement. “ETFO expects the same clarity from the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA), Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) and the government but we’re not getting it on many very important issues at this point.”

In a statement to Global News on Thursday, education minister Stephen Lecce said his message for the unions is to “always put kids first.”

“As families across our province know, strike action disproportionately hurts our kids, especially the most vulnerable in our classrooms,” the statement read.

“My message to our labour partners is to … continue to work with us in good faith to make sure kids remain in class each and every day.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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