Union: many too upset to resume activities
The director of education with the Rainbow District School Board is pleading with local high school teachers to think about their students when deciding whether or not they’ll return to extracurricular activities.
“We’re hopeful that they come back,” Norm Blaseg said. “We need them back. We want them back. I know our kids and our community want them back.”
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation’s provincial council, consisting of 150 of the union’s local leaders, voted Feb. 22 to recommend members stop boycotting extracurricular and other voluntary activities.
The boycott has been in place since December after a bitter labour dispute with the province that was capped off last month when the government imposed contracts on many of Ontario’s teachers.
However, according to media reports, there’s been a backlash among some teachers, who said they had no plans to resume extracurricular activities.
OSSTF provincial president Ken Coran said at a Feb. 25 press conference he estimates 20 per cent of teachers will likely never return to extracurriculars because they’re too upset with the province.
Another 20 per cent didn’t support the boycott in the first place, he said, while 60 per cent of OSSTF members are waiting for “concrete” and “tangible” results from discussions with the province, he said.
The OSSTF’s decision regarding extracurriculars was made in light of talks between OSSTF and the province, which have been ongoing for the last few weeks.
Coran said Feb. 25 that these talks will continue, and will focus on existing contract terms and new contracts set to take effect in the fall of 2014.
OSSTF District 3 Rainbow president James Clyke, who represents high school teachers with the Rainbow District School Board, was not immediately available for comment on the issue.
Blaseg said it makes sense that the province and the OSSTF would want to talk about the next set of negotiations now.
“It typically takes 12 to 18 months for this to unfold,” he said. “Based on the last round, it probably will take that long. So maybe he’s speaking to that.”
While Blaseg said 95 per cent of high school sports have kept running during the boycott, Grade 12 Manitoulin Secondary School student Michael Niven said the same isn’t true of all school activities.
For example, Niven, the Rainbow District School Board’s student trustee, said he was supposed to participate in his school’s musical, Bye Bye Birdie, but the activity was cancelled because of the boycott.
He said he hopes this will change now that the OSSTF has agreed to stop the job action.
“I would hope that we’d be able to regroup and be able to come back and put on a performance,” Niven said.
Blaseg said he hopes the teachers who previously supervised non-sports school activities, whether they be the school musical or the gay-straight alliance, will consider returning to those activities.
Barb Blasutti, president of ETFO’s Rainbow local, representing the Rainbow board’s elementary teachers, said her members are still engaging in an extracurricular activity boycott for now.
However, she said she’s “anxious to hear” what arrangements the OSSTF has made with the province, as it would be great if her union could come to a similar deal.
ETFO provincial president Sam Hammond told the Toronto Star he doesn’t feel any pressure to end his union’s job action.
He said his union’s meetings with the province continue this week, and will make a decision on extracurricular activities by March 1.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a written Feb. 22 statement she was happy to hear OSSTF had decided to end the extracurricular boycott.
“I’m so glad that teachers, support staff and students across the province will once again enjoy the extracurricular activities and programs that mean so much to them,” she said.
Wynne said she’d been engaging in “frank and collaborative discussions” with the union for the last few weeks.
“Today’s news is a great indication of the hard work all parties are putting into the repair of this valued relationship,” she said.
“It shows our willingness to ... find common ground on which we can rebuild a foundation of trust.”
She added the issue needs to be addressed “within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework.”