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TORONTO — The union representing elementary teachers in Ontario says it is ready to resume contract negotiations with the province. The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario made the announcement shortly after Education Minister Liz Sandals called on it to return to the bargaining table. In a public statement, Sandals expressed concern with the union's plan to begin rotating strikes next month and encouraged it to reconsider any planned actions that would disrupt students, teachers and families. Sandals said the province has reviewed its proposal and previous positions put forward by ETFO since talks between the two sides came to an impasse, and believes an agreement can be reached "within the parameters of the offer presented to ETFO." ETFO president Sam Hammond responded to Sandals' comments by saying the teachers' union has been ready to return to the bargaining table for two weeks "to bargain a fair and reasonable collective agreement specific to ETFO members." Hammond said he was looking to Sandals to confirm where and when negotiations would resume. Relations between elementary teachers and the province have been tense for weeks. Last week, elementary teachers escalated their work-to-rule campaign and threatened rotating one-day strikes as the government urged them to accept deals similar to those that had worked for their colleagues in high schools and the Catholic system. The two other large teachers' unions voted to approve agreements that included a one per cent bonus and a 1.5 per cent pay increase, while the union representing teachers in Francophone schools also reached a tentative contract. As part of its work-to-rule campaign, ETFO said its members would not take part in parent-teacher meetings or class trips and not fill in for absent colleagues. The union also warned it would start one-day rotating strikes within two weeks if there's still no deal.
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