Public Elementary Teachers Hopeful Strike Can Be Avoided

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Renfrew County's public elementary teachers are hoping the school support staff deal that was reached on the weekend can also help several other educational professionals reach a deal to avoid a strike.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, which represents four bargaining groups in Renfrew County's public schools, including elementary and occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators and other professional support staff, has been without a contract since August 31st.  

Local members held a meeting and a strike mandate vote in Cobden on Monday night.  

Teachers' local president Allison Ryan says it's just part of the process during contract talks, and they're hoping it will send a message to the government that they want a fair deal.

"To ask for a strong mandate, so that we can show the government that our members are solidly behind us, as they attempt to bargain a fair contract for us", Ryan told Pure Country 96.7.

"Nobody likes to hear the word strike, and certainly our members don't want to be on the picket line", Ryan added.

On Sunday night, the Education Minister and CUPE announced a tentative deal for 55,000 educational support staff, averting a strike just three hours before the deadline set by the union.

Ryan says that agreement, while not yet ratified, is a good sign that things can also head in a positive direction with the teachers' talks.

"So, the fact that CUPE held the line, and pushed back against the cuts the government was asking for, is certainly good news for our members", Ryan said.

Ryan says key issues for ETFO include class sizes and support for special needs students, along with the support of early childhood educators in Kindergarten classrooms.

Talks between ETFO and the province are continuing throughout this month and the results of the strike mandate vote won't be announced for at least a few weeks.