End-of-year report cards will be bereft of commentary and those extra-curricular activities that could still take place during remote learning won’t be staffed for now in Toronto’s Catholic schools as teachers try to increase pressure on the board to hear their concerns.

The union representing Toronto’s Catholic elementary teachers and the city’s Catholic school board last week broke from what each called extensive negotiations on administrative aspects of a provincial collective agreement reached in April 2020.

“During a pandemic, this would be a very good opportunity for the board to listen to our concerns and try to meet our needs given all of the efforts that teachers have made throughout this year, and it just doesn't seem to be the case,” Julie Altomare-DiNunzio, president of Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT), said in an interview.

TECT is the largest unit of the provincial Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), representing more than 4,000 elementary teachers at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).

The provincial government reached broad deals with education unions including OECTA soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, following months of dispute that included industrial action. But those deals focus on salary and other comprehensive issues, while local districts then negotiate with individual boards on more administrative matters.

The lack of agreement between TECT and TCDSB led the union to its work-to-rule stance, meaning after the long weekend, its members will only perform the minimum duties required by their contracts, which does not include voluntary activities such as yearbooks and graduation celebrations, or taking part in transition meetings and reports.

“All of our elementary schools remain open, and academic programming will continue to be delivered to our students during this work-to-rule action,” the TCDSB said in a note to parents. “We expect that the daily activities of our students during remote learning will not be affected.”

Neither side has publicly detailed the specific areas of dispute or their bargaining positions, citing the confidentiality of the process.

But the board’s negotiating team did not mention mental health support for teachers as one of the topics at the negotiating table during a recent update, TCDSB trustee Maria Rizzo said.

“I'm disappointed. I think it's bad timing. We're in the middle of a pandemic, (but) I can't speak to the specifics,” she said.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer