By Doug Hallett
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation’s decision to call off its boycott of extracurricular activities is generally being well received by local teachers, says the president of the OSSTF’s local teachers’ bargaining unit.
“It would be my guess that many (extracurricular) programs would be starting up very soon” in the high schools of the Upper Grand District School Board, Paul Rawlinson said Wednesday.
Following talks that included new Education Minister Liz Sandals, the provincial OSSTF decided last Friday that Ontario’s high school teachers should resume leading extracurricular activities in light of progress being made in these talks.
“I think the message to our members is that the new government has changed the climate significantly,” Rawlinson said in an interview.
He said the feedback to this message that he’s been getting since Friday from local branch presidents and directly from individual teachers has been “fairly positive.”
However, “at the end of the day it will be up to individual teachers” to decide about resuming leadership of high school teams and clubs, and some teachers may still be so upset that they won’t return to extracurriculars for the time being, he said.
Rawlinson said talks are continuing between OSSTF and government officials about such things as “hangover effects from Bill 115,” the legislation used by the government in early January to impose new two-year contracts on many teachers’ union locals across the province.
The OSSTF is hoping to see announcements before long about progress in this area, which could involve “some sort of entrenched process for collective bargaining, so there would never be another Bill 115,” he said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has indicated the government is also talking with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which represents elementary teachers at public schools, and hopes for a similar outcome on extracurriculars with ETFO.
Officials at the Upper Grand board are still waiting for clarity on the extracurricular situation in local high schools. “We are waiting to see what is going to happen, because it’s early days yet,” Maggie McFadzen, the board’s communications officer, said in an interview Wednesday.