Effective Tuesday, November 26, 2019, ETFO members are beginning “Phase 1” strike action in the form of a work-to-rule (WTR).

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about WTR.

[accordion clicktoclose=”true”]

[accordion-item title=”What is strike action?”]
You do not need to be walking a picket line to be engaging in strike action. Any withdrawal of services by union members who are in a legal strike position is strike action. That includes withdrawal of one or more services provided to the employer through a work-to-rule (WTR).


[accordion-item title=”Is our Phase 1 WTR a legal strike action?”]
Yes. ETFO is in a legal strike position as of Monday, November 25, 2019. We are beginning our Phase 1 WTR on Tuesday, November 26, 2019.

[accordion-item title=”What do I do if I’m not sure an activity/event is part of the Phase 1 WTR? Should I call the ETFO Provincial Office?”]
It is not possible for ETFO staff to provide timely answers to the hundreds of phone calls, emails and social media posts about WTR received daily at the provincial office.

Therefore, ETFO has set up a system to ensure you receive an answer to your question as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The system is as follows:

  • If you are a teacher member who has a question about WTR, ask your steward;
  • If you are an occasional teacher (OT), DECE, ESP or PSP member who has a question about WTR, call your ETFO local;
  • If you are a steward who has a question about WTR, or are unsure about how to answer a colleague’s question about WTR, contact your ETFO local office.


[accordion-item title=”Is supervision of students affected by the Phase 1 WTR?”]
No. You should continue to provide scheduled supervisory duties.

[accordion-item title=”I am supervising students before the start of the instructional day on Tuesday, November 26. Can I participate in that morning’s Solidarity Activity (i.e., entering the school together with colleagues)?”]
If you have scheduled supervision on the morning of Tuesday, November 26, your focus needs to be on completing those supervision responsibilities.

While on supervision, you can show your solidarity with colleagues by wearing an ETFO Cuts Hurt Kids or Class Size Matters button.

[accordion-item title=”May I participate in homework clubs, school dances, concerts, voluntary extra-curricular activities, field trips, play days or class excursions during the Phase 1 WTR?”]
Yes. These activities are not part of the Phase 1 WTR.

[accordion-item title=”Are staff meetings struck under the Phase 1 WTR?”]
Yes. Do not attend staff meetings, grade team meetings or divisional meetings before, during or after school. If an administrator asks you to attend a meeting, and you are unsure about whether the meeting is “struck work”, speak to your steward. OTs should contact their ETFO local for advice.

Members who are Consultants/Coordinators or have system level positions should not attend their department meetings as they are considered the equivalent to mandatory staff/divisional/grade team meetings.

[accordion-item title=”When are we required to be at school or leave the school at a particular time during the Phase 1 WTR?”]
Other than the Solidarity Action ETFO has asked members to participate in on the morning of Tuesday, November 26, there are no requirements for ETFO members to be at school or to leave school at any particular time under the Phase 1 WTR.

As they normally would, teachers and OTs are to follow regulations made under the Education Act requiring them to be at school 15 minutes before the start of the instructional day and five minutes before the end of the lunch period, as well as the school supervision schedule.

[accordion-item title=”Are all ETFO members included in the Phase 1 WTR sanctions?”]
Adherence to the strike protocol (i.e., Phase 1 WTR) is mandatory for all ETFO members, including: special assignment teachers; literacy support teachers; resource teachers; consultants.

[accordion-item title=”How long will our Phase 1 WTR continue?”]
The Phase 1 WTR will continue until the labour dispute is satisfactorily resolved or ETFO’s Provincial Executive deems that further actions are required.

[accordion-item title=”The principal has given me a memo about our Phase 1 WTR to give to parents. Am I required to distribute that document to parents?”]
Do not distribute school/school board communications that involve labour/negotiations/WTR issues. Please contact your steward right away if your principal asks you to distribute this type of document. Otherwise, please continue to distribute regular school communications (monthly newsletters, etc.) to parents.

[accordion-item title=”Should I let the principal know what is going on with the Phase 1 WTR or any other strike action?”]
No. ETFO’s provincial staff will provide this information to the school board. It is the board’s responsibility to communicate the information to administration.

[accordion-item title=”Can my principal tell me to remove my ETFO Cuts Hurt Kids button?”]
No. ETFO won a decision at the Ontario Labour Relations board more than decade ago that ensures our members have the right to wear a button in support of their union at the school/worksite.

[accordion-item title=”How should I respond to students’ comments and questions about Phase 1 WTR?”]
“I’m sorry but I am not able to discuss this with my students.”

[accordion-item title=”How should I respond to parents and community members during the Phase 1 WTR?”]
ETFO members are the most credible advocates for their profession. For parents, information about what’s at stake during this round of bargaining takes on greater significance when it comes directly from the trusted person who works with their child in the classroom.

If you feel comfortable engaging with parents about bargaining-related issues, but you’re not sure exactly what to say, refer to the ETFO document What to Tell Parents, Family, Friends and Others About Bargaining and Work-to-Rule. Your steward has a copy of this document; ask to review it for your personal use.

[accordion-item title=”What do I do if my principal asks me to perform a task that is part of the Phase 1 WTR, or threatens me with discipline for complying with WTR?”]
It is a violation of the Labour Relations Act for an employer to subject a union member to reprisals or threats of reprisals for engaging in a legal strike action. Those legal protections are extended to striking ETFO members.

If you feel comfortable doing so, remind your principal/vice-principal that we are on a legal strike and cannot do what has been requested. In a polite and professional manner, remind her/him that ETFO members are entitled to withdraw any or all of our services as of November 26, 2019.

If you don’t feel comfortable having this type of conversation with your administrator, or if you feel threatened in any way by the words or actions of an administrator, please contact your ETFO local immediately.

[accordion-item title=”Can I use old EQAO tests with my students as part of my literacy or numeracy program?”]
All activities related to EQAO are considered struck work.

Members should not use old EQAO tests as part of their program during the work-to-rule. There are many literacy and numeracy resources available that provide instructional and assessment materials members can use.

[accordion-item title=”I am a math coach/lead. I normally work with teachers to review EQAO results or to support the Fundamentals of Math strategy. What do I do during the WTR?”]
Math coaches/leads can continue to support teachers during the instructional day and focus on areas of math that teachers have identified as concerns using their own assessment data and based on their professional judgement. Math coaches/leads may not participate in any activities related to analyzing EQAO data or supporting school board/Ministry directed activities related to the Fundamentals of Math strategy.

[accordion-item title=”Are Special Education related meetings included in the WTR?”]
ETFO members should continue to attend meetings related to supporting students with special needs.

[accordion-item title=”Do I still create or update IEPs?”]

[accordion-item title=”Special Education involves a great deal of paperwork. What is affected in our WTR?”]
Our focus remains on supporting students, providing them access for supports, and providing appropriate programming. As such, creating and updating IEPs continues. Additionally, items such as referral forms (e.g., for speech language services), ADHD observation checklists, etc. will continue.

[accordion-item title=”Do we continue to prepare materials for IPRC meetings?”]
Preparing materials for IPRC meetings is not struck work in our Phase 1 WTR.

[accordion-item title=”Should I attend the required meetings for the Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA) process or any other job appraisal process?”]
Appraisal meetings are not part of the Phase 1 WTR.

[accordion-item title=”Will the New Teacher Induction Program be affected by the WTR?”]
You may participate as the NTIP program is not part of the Phase 1 WTR.

[accordion-item title=”I have been given release time and/or funding to attend a workshop/conference run by another organization (i.e., it is not Ministry professional learning). May I attend?”]
Yes. Conferences or workshops run by other organizations are not affected by the WTR.

[accordion-item title=”May I attend a workshop/conference if I have received funding from the local ETFO Professional Development fund?”]
Yes, you may attend.

[accordion-item title=”Can I continue acting as an Associate Teacher for faculty of education Teacher Candidate practicums?”]
Yes, you can continue working with Teacher Candidates.

[accordion-item title=”What do I do if I become aware that an ETFO member is not abiding by the terms of our WTR?”]
If you feel comfortable doing so, start by talking to your colleague to help her/him understand the consequences of noncompliance.

Standing together in this job action is important for all of us. Violating the terms of a WTR is like crossing the picket line and can strain working relationships in the school. Finally, remind your colleague that the best way to ensure that we won’t need to escalate our job action is to remain firm during these early phases.

[accordion-item title=”My report cards are only anecdotal, we do not assign grades or marks – should I hand the principal a blank sheet of paper?”]
In situations where teachers/OTs ONLY complete an anecdotal report card with no grades, levels, etc., teachers/OTs should hand in a class list to the administrator with one brief comment for each child per report card section.

[accordion-item title=”I’m an Acting Principal/Vice Principal. How does the Phase 1 WTR affect my work?”]
Members who are in acting principal/vice-principal roles, and are also members of their ETFO local, are to participate in strike action for the period of time that they pay ETFO fees (i.e., dues). So, for example, a member who is a full-time (100%) acting vice-principal and is paying 100% of their ETFO fees would participate fully in Phase 1 WTR

Members who are in a full-time or part-time acting principal/vice-principal role, and who are uncertain about how to participate in Phase 1 WTR, should contact their ETFO local office for advice .

[accordion-item title=”Can I hand out school newsletters or information packages about upcoming activities (e.g., Jump Rope for Heart, school trips, graduation ceremonies, etc.) to students?”]
Yes. Handing out normal home-school communications is not struck work under the Phase 1 WTR. However, members should not hand out any materials related to EQAO, our WTR action or the current labour dispute.

If the school newsletter contains sections about EQAO or the labour dispute, members should not hand it out to students. In that case, it would become the responsibility of the school principal/vice principal to distribute the newsletter.

[accordion-item title=”May I attend School Council meetings as the teacher representative?”]
Yes. This is a voluntary activity and may continue as normal practice at your school.

[accordion-item title=”Training sessions on the revised Health and Physical Education document have been advertised and staff have been asked to sign up to attend. What do I do?”]
Participation in all Ministry initiatives is struck work and, therefore, members are not to attend or present at these sessions.

[accordion-item title=”Will ETFO share information with other unions that represent education workers in our schools so that their members do not take on our struck work?”]
Yes. ETFO’s local presidents will discuss the work-to-rule with the presidents of the other unions so that their members know not to perform work struck by ETFO members.

[accordion-item title=”Can I take an additional qualification (AQ) course that is offered by my board during the Phase 1 WTR?”]
Yes, you can continue to take and register for AQ courses provided by any AQ provider, including AQ courses offered by school boards.
Members are also encouraged to review the many AQ courses offered by ETFO at

[accordion-item title=”My principal said that one of the goals in my ALP had to connect to the SIPSA. What should I do about this goal during Phase 1 WTR?”]
Any goals in your ALP that link to EQAO, the BIPSA or the SIPSA are struck work during Phase 1 WTR.

[accordion-item title=”Can I respond to my principal’s/vice-principal’s email during lunch or nutritional breaks?”]
Lunch and nutritional breaks are outside the instructional day, so members should not respond to an administrator’s electronic communications (emails, texts, etc.) during these times.
Members can respond to administrators’ electronic communications during their planning/preparation/professional time.

[accordion-item title=”Our school has “lunch and learn” professional learning sessions once a month. Can ETFO members attend during the Phase 1 WTR?”]
No. Members may not participate in school board professional learning outside the instructional day. Your lunch/nutrition breaks take place outside the instructional day.

[accordion-item title=”I’ve scheduled a meeting with a board consultant on the Professional Activity (PA) Day. Is that meeting affected by Phase 1 WTR?”]
ETFO members can meet with consultants, coordinators, facilitators and coaches on the PA Day during the Phase 1 WTR if:

  • the meeting has been scheduled at the request of the ETFO member in the classroom/worksite, not at the request of an administrator; and
  • the meeting is not connected to EQAO, the BIPSA or the SIPSA.


[accordion-item title=”Can I administer the Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (CCAT)?”]
Yes, you should continue to administer the CCAT as it is a special education assessment tool.

[accordion-item title=”Do I prepare the reports for my student teachers/DECE candidates and co-op students during the Phase 1 WTR?”]
Yes, members would continue to prepare any required reporting for student teachers/DECE candidates and for co-op students.