By Colin Burrowes
As of press time on Monday, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (OSSTF) will be participating in a one-day province-wide full withdrawal of services on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, if a new collective agreement is not reached by that time.
In the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB), OSSTF members include secondary teachers and education workers (educational assistants, early childhood educators, office professionals and technicians, and professional student services personnel).
“We began a job action carefully devised to have no impact on students,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof. “It is clear from these past two days of bargaining, however, that our action is having no impact on the tone or substance of negotiations.”
Bischof recognized that the one-day walkout will cause disruption in the lives of students and parents.
“We are disappointed that we’ve been driven to take this action,” he said. “We cannot, however, stand aside and do nothing while the long-term interests of students are being compromised by the Ford government.”
Bischof said that through months of bargaining, the management team has avoided any meaningful discussion of class sizes, staffing and mandatory e-learning.
“Even in light of our current job action, far too little has changed at the table,” he said. “We are left with no choice but to intensify our efforts to defend our education system against a government that has already begun to sabotage it.”
As a result of this latest escalation of job action, which would have an impact on both elementary and secondary schools, parents/guardians and families have been notified that they may need to prepare for the possibility of these disruptions on Wednesday.
“The well-being and safety of all students and staff remains our top priority during these negotiations,” said, Alana Murray, direct of education, in a letter sent home to parents “We continue to closely monitor this job action, and are committed to sharing the most up-to-date information with you as it becomes available.”
BWDSB provides updates on its website at www.bwdsb.on.ca/parents/Labour_Updates.
The first phase of job action, work-to-rule, started on Nov. 26. It involved information pickets before or after school, or during lunch periods. These pickets were not intended to disrupt the regular school day or impact students in the classroom.
OSSTF and members will also began a limited withdrawal of services which included participation in EQAO preparation or testing, completion/submission of Ministry of Education data reports, participation in professional activities based on Ministry of Education or school board initiatives, participation in unpaid staff meetings outside the regular school day, providing comments on any secondary provincial report cards and performing the work of another bargaining unit, even if directed by administration.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has also been participating in the work-to-rule action.
“Our goal is to turn up the heat on Premier Ford and his education minister, Stephen Lecce,” said EFTO President Sam Hammond. “It’s critical that they finally come to contract talks prepared to address the real issues of concern: more supports for students with special needs, the protection of Ontario’s Kindergarten program and critical issues like addressing violence in schools.”
Since June, ETFO has tabled these issues at central contract talks but the government has provided nothing but evasive non-answers, according to Hammond. Talks continued this week.
“Parents, teachers and education professionals know that the government’s agenda of cuts, not investment, in public education is harmful to our students’ education and future. We’re taking the legal steps available to us to get a better deal that supports our members and students and helps preserve Ontario’s world-class education system,” added Hammond.
“Strikes hurt kids,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, in a statement issued on Nov. 28 regarding the decision of the OSSTF to escalate to a strike. “Our government has been clear; we want deals that keep students in class. I call on OSSTF to remain at the bargaining table, with third-party, independent mediation, up until the deadline. All parties that are truly committed to the success of our children will consider every tool available to avoid strikes which hurt our students.“