Ontario high school teachers cancel extracurricular activities for ...

Q: What is at the root of this dispute? A: The fight centres on Bill 115, a piece of legislation that allows the province to impose on teachers new contracts that include a two-year wage freeze and a reduction in bankable sick days. It also gives the government power to intervene to prevent or end a strike. While unions representing French and Catholic teachers accepted that deal, the OSSTF and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario remain at an impasse with the province. Unlike their secondary school counterparts, however, elementary teachers are not in a legal strike position and consequently cannot take formal job action. Instead, they have protested in other ways, such as retreating from extracurricular activities. “Nobody wants any of this,” OSSTF president Ken Coran said Monday, noting job action could be suspended if the province shows “movement” on certain sticking points. “What we want is a collective agreement that could be ratified by all parties.”

Q: How are students be! ing affected, and for how long will this last? A: The substantive strike action cannot continue past Dec. 31, after which point the province will impose new contracts. Twenty boards are engaged in job action, but as others enter a legal strike position in the coming weeks, that number is expected to grow. In Toronto, TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said students have thus far seen little change, with the action centred on administrative matters. “To my knowledge, there really has been no direct impact on students,” Mr. Bird said. There have been disruptions to extra-curricular activities, though, as teachers, for example, cut back on their time volunteering to supervise sports teams. Toronto students will still stay home from school for a scheduled PA day on Nov. 16, even though teachers will not participate in professional development activities that day.

Q: What is the Education Ministry’s response to this? A: Education Minister Laurel Broten issued a statement Monday encouraging unions to continue negotiating at the local level toward new collective agreements â€" provided those agreements are “substantively identical” to to the memorandum of understanding between the province and its French and Catholic teachers. She also denounced the OSSTF’s decision to launch strike action. “This is disappointing and makes clear that discussions at the provincial level are no longer possible. It’s also very disappointing that these strike actions will put students and families in the middle,” Ms. Broten said, noting the ministry would closely monitor the situation in the days ahead. “We have the tools to act and will fully explore those options.”

Q: What are teachers doing? A: After discussions with the province broke off, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation announced Monday morning that strike action would begin in 20 regional school boards, including the Toronto District School Board. The federation issued a broad list of directives for affected teachers, requiring that they cease to do any of the following: attend staff or departmental meetings, participate in professional development, complete annual learning plans, complete ministry reports, accept supervisory assignments outside of regular classroom duties, participate in parent interviews outside of the regular school day or provide written progress reports beyond those given at the middle or end of a term.

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“Our decisions, as a government, have been to put students first, to keep dollars in the classrooms and in continuing to invest in public education, keeping our teachers there, employed and focused on student success,” she said. “That’s what I’m asking teachers to do. I am extremely disappointed by early indications of what is transpiring.”


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