Sudbury teachers to start job action

With teacher job action ramping up across the province, people are looking back at the last time there was a conflict between the province and teachers.

Former union leader says pulling services won't help teachers' cause

With teacher job action ramping up across the province, people are looking back at the last time there was a conflict between the province and teachers.

Public secondary school teachers in Sudbury were to start job action on Monday.

In a letter to parents, the director of the Rainbow District School board warned teachers may also stop communicating with parents beyond the regular school day and may not supervise outside of the classrooom

Norm Blaseg said staff at the schools will do whatever possible to minimize the disruption for students and will ensure appropriate supervision.

In 1997, 126,000 teachers across the province walked off the job for two weeks — the largest teacher's strike in North American history.

In 2012 some things have changed, while others remain the same.

The former head of the Rainbow District School board in Sudbury remembers 1997 well.

"That was an era of dramatic change," said Jean Hanson, who was principal of Lansdowne Public School at the time.

She noted local boards today have a lot less control.

"It's a bad thing in that, right now, it is inhibiting negotiations from moving forward," she said. "The boards are willing to negotiate, but have very little power over what they're able to put on the table."

More difficult to resolve

Gord Ewin, who was the director of education at the Rainbow District School Board in 1997 and former president of a local teachers’ federation, said if he were still with the union, he'd advise teachers against job action.

"All they will do by withdrawing services is lose public support," he said, noting "they'd have a better chance of being successful with the public" if they didn’t take job action.

Ewin said he doesn't think teachers will be successful in their negotiations and thinks they will eventually walk off the job — just like they did 15 years ago.

Now that the power to negotiate between boards and unions at a local level has been lost, it will be more difficult to resolve the conflict between teachers and the province, Ewin said.

"School boards really do not have a lot of say in what's going on at the present time," he said.

"It's really a situation … [involving] the province and the ministry of education."

High school teachers with the Algoma District School Board in Sault Ste. Marie were also to begin job action today.

Secondary school teachers, secretaries, custodians and teaching assistants — about 60,000 workers across the province — are already in the midst of a work-to-rule campaign against the Ontario Liberal government.

Neither those workers nor elementary teachers have said they want to close schools.

"Our objective is not to shut down schools, but we will exercise our right under the Ontario Labour Act," said Sam Hammond, president of the ETFO, in a previous CBC News story.

Hammond would not reveal any particular labour tactics but he assured parents children's safety would not be affected.