The director of education with the Rainbow District School Board said he fears local English public high school teachers could soon be involved in a work to rule campaign.
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) president Ken Coran recently said OSSTF locals in a strike position as of Nov. 7 will likely refuse to administer standardized tests, talk to parents or attend staff meetings.
While local OSSTF members won't be in a strike position as of Nov. 7, Norm Blaseg said these actions could be coming to the region soon enough.
The board and local Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) met with a conciliator Oct. 26.
If the conciliator issues a “no board” report, meaning the two sides cannot come to an agreement, the union would be in a legal strike position 16 days later.
Blaseg said he fully expects the conciliator to issue a no board report.
Although the union could, technically, go on strike, he said it's more likely they'll undertake work to rule because the government has the power to end teachers' strikes.
Work to rule is a job action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract.
Blaseg said he understands teachers are feeling frustrated because of Bill 115, government legislation passed in September, which imposes many of their contract terms and gives the province the power to intervene in teachers' strikes.
However, he said he disagrees with some of the job actions being proposed. “You're going to see kids being affected, period,” he said.
James Clyke, District 3 president of the OSSTF, which represents secondary teachers with the Rainbow board, said he's not exactly sure what's going to happen when his local is in a legal strike position.
He said he expects to receive more direction from his union at a meeting in Toronto later this week.
“Depending on what happens this weekend, we're going to figure out how it's all going to roll out and how it's going to affect standardized testing,” Clyke said.
The union isn't interested in hitting the picket lines even when it's in a legal strike position, he said.
You're going to see kids being affected, period.
director of education, Rainbow District School Board
“We're interested in staying in the classroom and teaching students, but we're trying to apply pressure so the government will come back and negotiate with us collectively, like the labour relations act says we should.”
Up to this point, unlike the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), OSSTF members haven't taken any significant job actions.
When Bill 115 was introduced in September, ETFO urged its members to take a “pause” from voluntary work such as supervising school extracurricular activities or coaching sports teams.
The union has also since advised its members to write only the minimum comment required — a single sentence, for example — on upcoming report cards.
Although these actions may sound a bit like work to rule, Barb Blasutti, president of ETFO's Rainbow local, told Northern Life in September they're actually not.
“A work to rule has a very specific meaning,” she said.
“It can only occur in a certain timeline in the bargaining process. That would be after a strike vote ... A work to rule would mean a pullback of even the things we do in the instructional day, for example. That's not what this is.”
But an actual work to rule campaign could be coming for ETFO members.
Blasutti said her local has requested a conciliator “to help negotiate our collective agreement in accordance with the Ontario Labour Relations Act.” A conciliator has not yet been appointed.
“So in the meantime our goal is still to negotiate,” she said.
“We have let the board know we are still open, and we'd still be willing to negotiate with them while we wait for this process.
“The difficulty in this process is not necessarily an inability to negotiate with the board. It's because the Liberal government has imposed so many drastic cuts and challenges to democracy that it's created some difficulties that we haven't been able to resolve at the local bargaining table.”
Much like the OSSTF, she said it's more likely her union would participate in work to rule than hit the picket lines because of the provisions in Bill 115.