05/11/2015 06:55 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Ontario elementary teachers begin work-to-rule campaign

Ontario elementary teachers begin a work-to-rule campaign today in hopes of ending stalled contract talks with the province.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents some 76,000 teachers, announced the job action last week following eight months of unsuccessful negotiations. It affects all 32 of Ontario's English public school boards.

All elementary schools are still open, but there will be differences inside classrooms.

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"Hopefully this will get results without kind of pushing it to the extreme," said GTA music teacher Sarah Benoit.

During the first phase of the job action, teachers:

- Will refuse to work on standardized testing.

- Won't add written comments on report cards.

- Won't attend staff and other meetings.

Teresa Biderman said she's pleased the strike won't close her Patryk son's school – something that would have forced her to take time off work — but is concerned about the "tightening" of activities for students.

Her son said he's mostly concerned about losing feedback on his report card.

"I think it is good to have comments on the report card 'cause of course that's how to improve and where to improve," he said.

ETFO says the job action isn't about money, but working conditions for teachers.

"Preparation time, supervision, their ability to exercise professional judgment, and fair and equitable hiring practices" are all key issues for teachers, said ETFO president Sam Hammond.

They have been without a contract since last August. 

Education Minister Liz Sandals says the government is ready to negotiate, but didn't say if she is prepared to remove several concessions that concern ETFO.

"Our government has been clear that we are ready and available to bargain with all parties," Sandals said. 

Teachers have blasted several concessions sought amid the negotiations with the province and the Ontario Public School Boards' Association. ETFO says the board and province want to take control of teachers' preparation time, continue to force teachers to deal with an "excessive" number of ministry initiatives and rescind a hiring regulation that allows occasionally teachers to be hired into long-term contracts.

Under new provincial legislation, teachers' unions are negotiating in a two-tiered system, in which they have parallel talks with both local boards and the province.