The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has begun work action after discussions with the provincial government ended without a collective agreement.
The OSSTF initiated the work action today after the move was postponed for five days, said OSSTF president Ken Coran in a news release.
“It’s not work action in the normal sense,” said Jeff Barber, a veteran Renfrew Collegiate Institute teacher and Local 28 president of the OSSTF.
“We’re not outside on the picket line. We’re still sticking, as our (provincial) president said, to the meat and potatoes of our job. We’re focused on the teaching and the planning and the marking. Those are the fundamental parts of our job.”
The action consists of strike-related sanctions, including the withdrawal of student supervision before and after school, and at lunch, at the board's high schools, including Opeongo High School and Renfrew Collegiate Institute.
“This work action is going to take as long as it needs to take,” said Barber.
The strike action involves about 20 school boards in Ontario, including the Renfrew County District School Board. Those taking strike action include early childhood educators, office managers, teachers and occasional teachers.
The work action is happening at such boards as Upper Canada, Waterloo Region, Wellington Catholic, Halton, Limestone, Toronto, Hastings and Prince Edward, and Ottawa-Carleton.
Student supervision is being handled through a contingency plan, which means principals and vice-principals must stay on the high school grounds, and not leave for meetings. Other support is coming from retired principals and board-based administrators.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario indicates that its elementary teachers are not yet in a strike position. However, more than 75 ETFO locals have requested conciliation to help negotiate their collective agreements with the Province. Its collective agreements expired on Aug. 31, 2012.
Meanwhile, the elementary teachers are backing an online petition calling for MPPs to repeal Bill 115, which was passed in September.
“Bill 115,” says the online petition, “undermines the guarantees made to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It strips education professionals of their right to collectively bargain and places the government above the reach of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Labour Relations Act, and the courts. It sets a dangerous precedent.”
Last month, the OSSTF filed a legal challenge against the Ontario government over passage of Bill 115, or the Putting Students First Act.
The bill is preventing the teachers from being able to negotiate in an open and fair manner, says Barber.
“I truly believe we could have an agreement, given the opportunity,” said the Local 28 president.
“We could keep negotiating without an agreement. We’ve done that before. But Bill 115 has changed that.”
Among other things, Bill 115 freezes the teachers’ wage grid, sharply reduces the number of annual sick days, eliminates the payout from banking more than 200 sick days, and gives the education minister the right to intervene in collective bargaining.
This week’s strike action does not include the Renfrew County Catholic School Board’s two high schools, St. Joseph’s (Renfrew) and Bishop Smith (Pembroke). The board hasn’t signed off, but its teachers have a memorandum of agreement with the Province through the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA).