By Doug Hallett
By Doug Hallett
The public school board is waiting to see if local high school teachers heed their union and engage in a public education campaign instead of extracurricular activities.
“We have to wait and see how our local reacts to those directives,” said Upper Grand District School Board chair Mark Bailey.
During December, most local high school teachers remained involved in extracurricular activities. They did so in spite of a union request that Upper Grand teachers “revisit their commitment” to extracurricular activities. Elsewhere in Ontario, where high school teachers didn’t have a contract and were in a legal strike position, the union ordered teachers to withdraw from extracurriculars. The Upper Grand local of the Ontario Secondary Schools Teach-ers’ Federation ratified a two-year deal with the local board in late November.
In response to Education Minister Laurel Broten’s announcement on Jan. 3 that the government was using Bill 115 to impose two-year contracts on locals that hadn’t reached deals, OSSTF union leaders met on Jan. 9 in Toronto to discuss tactics.
That day, they issued a news release saying they’d decided to “support the withholding of voluntary and extracurricular activities” by high school teachers.
In the release, the union urged high school teachers to “replace participation in voluntary or extracurricular activities, by engaging in a public education campaign highlighting the loss of the right to free collective bargaining and the loss of democracy and its implications for all Ontarians.”
The release also called for high school teachers to hold a day of political protest instead of teaching on Wednesday Jan. 16.
The OSSTF called off the Jan. 16 protest on Friday, after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that such a one-day walkout would be an “illegal strike,” which could result in teachers and their unions being fined for participating.
Paul Rawlinson, president of the Upper Grand teachers’ bargaining unit of the OSSTF, could not be reached for comment.
The labour board ruling also resulted in the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario calling off a one-day protest it had scheduled for Friday Jan. 11.
Bailey said the Upper Grand board is happy that the labour board spent 13 hours hearing the provincial government’s application to have the planned one-day protest declared an illegal strike, announcing its decision after 4 a.m. Friday morning.
“We are thankful for the labour board doing the work it needed to do to come to a resolution,” he told the Trib. He added that he was also pleased that union leaders were going along with the labour board ruling.
Bailey said his board recognizes that parents of local elementary school students were inconvenienced by the uncertainty surrounding ETFO’s one-day walkout, which was announced by the union early last Wednesday afternoon. Parents had to scramble to make alternative arrangements for their children for Friday, he said, and then had to scramble again to get their children to school after ETFO’s protest was called off early Friday and the school board reversed its previous decision to close the schools.
Inclement weather Friday, which led to a decision after 6:30 a.m. to cancel school buses for Guelph-Wellington students, added “another wrinkle” to the problems faced by parents, he said. In Guelph, all elementary schools were open Friday. Nearby Aberfoyle school was closed, as it relies on busing.
“We appreciate the work that parents have put in to ensure their children were at school this morning,” Bailey said.
Students who didn’t manage to make it to school Friday will not have their attendance records penalized, a board news release said. Instead, they will be recorded as general – or pardoned – absences.
“Most of our (Upper Grand) high schools are still offering extracurriculars, as of this week,” Bailey said in an interview Friday.
The board’s high school teachers were the only public teachers in Ontario to ratify a new contract before a Dec. 31 deadline set by the province as part of Bill 115, the education legislation that was passed in September.