After months of high-profile tension between public school teachers and the provincial government, the union plans to implement a work-to-rule.
The tension is based on the controversial Bill 115, which freezes teacher wage increases, and allows the government to cut teachers’ sick days and block strikes.
According to a statement sent to all teachers, teachers across the province are expected to enter a full union-mandated work-to-rule starting this coming Monday. This news comes as a surprise to many teachers, especially as the Minister of Education has done nothing to block teacher strike action so far.
The statement was issued by Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) President Kenneth Coran. In a new wave of retaliatory action that the union calls the “Fight Back Campaign”, Coran states that “all members are directed to refrain from voluntary and /or extra-curricular activities by December 10, 2012.”
This is an escalation of the union’s previous retaliatory action, in which teachers were directed to withdraw their administrative duties. Students have already began to be affected by the changes. Most notably, the teachers’ refusal to attend weekly staff meetings has in many case resulted in a full instruction schedules on days that were previously shortened for students.
If the “Fight Back Campaign” commences as planned, teachers will be directed to “not enter work sites until 15 minutes prior to the start of the school day” and to “leave the work sites immediately at the end of their scheduled duties.” Clubs, athletic teams, and extra help sessions will cease as a result of this action.
The OSSTF has not clarified exactly which “voluntary and/or extracurricular activities” are to be withdrawn. The verdict on field trips, graduation trips, and proms remains uncertain.
Mr. Jan, MGCI guidance counselor and OSSTF Branch President, told The Reckoner that all outside-of-hours activities, including the extra instruction provided by the school’s famed AP Physics C program, would be put on hold by the action.
“It does not have to be this way,” he said, “to me this is a sad reality that [Education Minister Laurel Broten] has put everyone into.”
Mr. Jan anticipated the students’ reaction: “It’s only natural [for students to be disappointed], but from our perspective, students should direct their feelings to the people who are causing all this.”
On the other side of the conflict, Ontario’s Education Minister Laurel Broten blames the union leaders for the unrest in the province’s schools. “The actions by the teacher union leadership show clearly that this was never about bargaining locally and finding solutions,” Laurel Broten told reporters on Monday. “This has been, and will continue to be, about the refusal of our union leadership, not our teachers, to accept a real pay freeze. It’s the union leaders, not our teachers, who refuse to accept our fiscal realities.”
Broten has previously threatened to block teachers from entering a legal strike, but on Monday she refused to say how soon the government would respond to the latest action taken by the union leaders. The Liberal government maintains that the Bill is aimed to reduce the province’s $14.8-billion deficit.
Despite the vast implications that the strike action holds on student life, Broten said on Monday that the government “will not see a situation where students are caught in the middle of this.”
This article was prepared by News Manager MJ Chen and Editor-in-Chief Mahan Nekoui.
Updated at 7:06 p.m. to add Mr. Jan’s statement.