The union representing the province’s public elementary school teachers says members are preparing to begin a work-to-rule campaign later this month.

In a news release issued Thursday, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said it is engaging in a “series of local meetings” starting today to prepare its members for strike action on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

“The action targets ministry and school board administrative tasks and does not impact on students,” the news release read.

ETFO President Sam Hammond said they wanted to let parents know “well in advance” about the strike action.

“ETFO members will be withdrawing from ministry and school board administrative activities, which will give them more time to focus on working with students,” Hammond said.

“Our goal is to turn up the heat on Premier Ford and his education minister, Stephen Lecce. It’s critical that they finally come to contract talks prepared to address the real issues of concern: more supports for students with special needs, the protection of Ontario’s Kindergarten program and critical issues like addressing violence in schools.”

Responding to the development Thursday, Lecce told CP24 that job action will hurt students and accused teachers of being chiefly concerned with wages and benefits.

“There’s a way that we can all win here, but it requires them to stay at the table and it really requires them to cease escalation,” he said.  

As part of the work-to-rule campaign, elementary school teachers will not participate in any EQAO activities, attend staff meetings or meetings with Ministry of Education achievement officers, complete report cards, or participate in school board/ school improvement planning activities.

Last week, ETFO, which represents 83,000 public elementary school teachers, occasional teachers, and education professionals, announced that talks with the province brokered by a conciliator were unsuccessful, putting the union in a legal strike position on Nov. 25.

The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, whose conciliation efforts also failed, will be in a legal strike position on Nov. 18.

Teachers in the province's English Catholic system also recently voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action.

“It is not just one teacher affiliate or one group of members that are saying the cuts to education are a problem… it is all of the affiliates and parents included,” Hammond said while speaking to reporters on Thursday morning.

He said little progress has been made at the bargaining table since talks began.

“In our last extension agreement, we negotiated approximately 90 million for two separate funds for student with special needs, unique learning, and at-risk students. We have it on the table to renew that. This government has not responded to that request at this time,” he said, adding that the government has also refused to make a commitment to full-day kindergarten.

Hammond said that there are no plans to escalate the labour action and added that he hopes that bargaining dates will be scheduled before the work-to-rule campaign begins

“Come to our table, make a commitment to full-day kindergarten. Come to our table and reinvest that 90 million for students with special needs and who are at-risk. That will kick-start this process and we can move forward,” he said.

Lecce told CP24 Thursday afternoon that his goal is to keep kids in the classroom. When asked how that’s possible when the two sides don’t seem able to make headway, he pointed out that people were also skeptical about his ability to get a deal with education support workers.

“I remain cautiously optimistic that we can get a deal,” Lecce said, adding that he is “laser-focused on providing predictability for families.”

Both ETFO and OSSTF are planning to hold a rally outside Lecce's office Friday afternoon.