Extra-curricular activities are set to return to Ontario high schools — bringing to an end a months-long protest that has stopped a large portion of the province's high school students from participating on sports teams or school clubs.
A statement posted on the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers' Federation website late Friday afternoon said local leaders have agreed "to suspend political action regarding voluntary activities."
OSSTF president Ken Coran said in a prepared statement that he hoped "this sign of good will" will "prompt the government to have genuine discussions that can lead to a fair resolution to this current impasse."
Teachers' unions across the province were outraged when the Liberal government of former premier Dalton McGuinty imposed a contract.
Some unions approved the new contract, but OSSTF members decided to drop all extra-curricular activities as a demonstration of their unhappiness
The recent election of Kathleen Wynne to replace McGuinty as Ontario premier appears to have improved relations between the OSSTF and the Liberals and paved the way for a settlement to the dispute.
Just minutes after the OSSTF released its decision, Wynne released a statement saying "I’m so glad that teachers, support staff and students will once again enjoy the extracurricular activities and programs that mean so much to them."
Later, at a news conference at Queen's park she said the government did not make any concessions to the union in order to bring an end to the protest, other than to work with the OSSTF to fix a broken relationship.
"The arrangements that have been reached do not add any money into the contracts or into the framework," she said.
She said her government has told the union leadership "we're willing to talk about some of the things that are bothering you, and one of those things is what's the collective bargaining process going to look like going forward."
Coran said that the decision on whether to resume those activities — things like coaching sports teams and supervising clubs — will be up to the teachers themselves. But with support from the local leadership it appears the re-introduction of extra-curricular activities is a foregone conclusion.
"We encourage members to review recent information and decide if they are willing to return to participating in the activities we know they feel so passionately about," Coran said.
Wynne's statement appeared aimed at bringing an end to the bitter protest which has affected hundreds of thousands of students in Ontario's high schools.
"Today's news is a great indication of the hard work all parties are putting into the repair of this valued relationship. It shows our willingness to work together, to listen to one another's concerns, and to find common ground on which we can rebuild a foundation of trust and create an effective process going forward.
"I've been clear that this issue needs to be addressed within Ontario's existing fiscal framework. But I am confident that our government's commitment to fairness, consistency and respect in our conversations with OSSTF and all our partners will continue to result in real work being done for the people of Ontario."
The union says it will have a news conference on Monday morning.
Wynne said she hoped the Elementary Teachers' Federation would decide to end its protest as well and resume extracurricular activities.