Resistance to Bill 115 is mounting.
As of Monday (Dec. 3), about 400 teachers withdrew support of extracurricular activities at all 24 elementary schools in the Renfrew County District School Board.
The Dec. 3 action by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) means the teachers won’t participate in school meetings, professional development, provincial assessments, administrative duties, or extracurricular activities, including field trips.
Similar sanctions will be initiated Dec. 10, when secondary-school teachers in most of Ontario’s public school boards withdraw involvement in extracurricular activities and restrict their work days.
Arnprior District High School athletic director Phil Moore said the dispute means all high school sports will be put on hold Monday “for the foreseeable future.” That means the basketball and volleyball games this week at Renfrew Collegiate Institute will be the last ones played until the teachers’ sanctions end and there will be no Sunday Renfrew Collegiate Institute Christmas band concert this year.
Allison Ryan, president of the Renfrew County local of ETFO, says the work action initiated Dec. 3 is in response to Education Minister Laurel Broten’s shutting down of a negotiation session with ETFO Nov. 11.
Ryan says Broten not only shut down the session, but then misrepresented the nature of the session to the media. “Ultimately, it’s a response to Bill 115 and taking away our ability to freely negotiate a contract with our employer,” said Ryan.
The provincial bill – the Putting Students First Act – was passed Sept. 11, 2012.
ETFO’s online petition to repeal it says Bill 115 “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.”
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.
Elementary teachers, in the local public board, have been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2012. The teachers had a four-year contract, but Ryan says the education ministry is pursuing a two-year contract this time.
If local agreements are not settled by Dec. 31, 2012, the Minister of Education is in position to impose agreements.
ETFO has also informed the public school board it plans a one-day walkout across the province. ETFO will provide 72 hours’ notice.
In response, the Renfrew County District School board has placed an update on its website from director of education Roger Clarke.
The board also dispatched a similar phone message to students’ parents and guardians Dec. 3. Clarke says the parents should make appropriate childcare arrangements, since the board would close its schools the day of the walkout.
The OSSTF’s newest sanctions, which start Dec. 10, will result in teachers arriving at school about 15 minutes before the start of classes and leaving school right after the last class. This will apply for the local board’s seven high schools and several other alternatives schools in such communities as Arnprior, Renfrew and Barry’s Bay.
In mid November, the OSSTF initiated milder sanctions, by withdrawing supervisory services for students. This has required the local public board to use current and retired administrators, and volunteers, to handle supervisory duties.
The new sanctions affect early childhood educators, occasional teachers and office managers, for a total of about 350 members with OSSTF’s Local 28.
Jeff Barber, president of Local 28, suggests the stalemate with Minister Laurel Broten could be over sooner than later.“We agreed to a wage freeze back in April,” said Barber. “If that’s all she needs, then we don’t need Bill 115.”
Meanwhile, local Roman Catholic school board teachers are not pursuing sanctions in the workplace. This is because the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education on July 5, 2012, prior to the introduction of Bill 115.
At the same time, OECTA Renfrew (County) unit president Mike Silmser says, “OECTA certainly does not agree with those parts of Bill 115 that strip away collective bargaining rights from unionized workers.”
ETFO members may also be conducting a one-day political protest across the province. They will do so if they vote 50 per cent or more in favour of such a protest. The protest will only happen, says Ryan, if the education minister imposes an agreement following the Dec. 31, 2012 deadline for agreements (as stated in Bill 115), or if the minister ends a legal strike by using provisions of Bill 115.
The voting deadline for its 76,000 members was Dec. 4. Results will be available shortly.