Ontario secondary teachers will delay job action
Union to meet with government today to 'fast track to potential resolutions'
Premier Dalton McGuinty says he's glad Ontario high school teachers are putting off job action and giving talks with his Liberal government another shot.
"My preference is that we resolve those differences between us and leave the students and the schools out of it," he said Wednesday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, after speaking at the annual Ontario Economic Summit.
"So I'm very pleased that, for the time being, the OSSTF has decided not to take any kind of strike action."
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation had instructed its members who are in a legal strike position to take what it called "administrative" job action on Wednesday, but at the last minute decided to delay the sanctions until just before midnight Sunday.
Union members had been told to stop going to staff meetings and sit out standardized tests, among other duties.
Late Tuesday, the OSSTF postponed the job action, saying it was in talks with the government to "fast track" potential resolutions to its dispute. The two sides were meeting Wednesday.
OSSTF, which represents about 60,000 members, is among three unions which have been fuming over the new anti-strike law brought in by the cash-strapped Liberal government.
Passed with the help of the Progressive Conservatives, the law also cuts benefits and freezes wages for the majority of the union members while still letting younger teachers move up the salary grid.
It also allows the government to impose its own agreement if it doesn't like what the unions and school boards negotiate together.
Four unions are taking the government to court, arguing the law is unconstitutional and violates collective bargaining rights.
Education Minister Laurel Broten said late Tuesday that she's glad the union is focusing on "finding solutions" with the government and school boards, who are the employers.
But Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak said the union should call off the planned labour sanctions permanently, calling them a "betrayal" of the teaching profession.
"They're just dead wrong," he said Wednesday. "They should not mess with our kids' education to score political points."
Hudak also blamed the minority Liberals for making "a mess" of education.
Education was supposed to be how the Liberals were going to define themselves, their "flagship" program, he said.
But after nine years, they've thrown about $6 billion more into an education system that has about 250,000 fewer kids, but results — particularly in math — have actually stagnated or declined, he said.
If no agreement is reached with high-school education workers, parents could see teachers not performing tasks like submitting student attendance or participating in curriculum or course writing.
There were also worries that students would face long delays to get their grades, since school boards would need to hire extra help to input them into the school's computer system.
But the union had instructed teachers to still provide instruction, do course preparation and marking and provide extra help.
Twenty-seven bargaining units in eight school boards would be affected, including the Toronto District School Board.
Some teachers who aren't necessarily in a strike position have already withdrawn from voluntary activities such as coaching and parent-teacher meetings in protest of the controversial law.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has advised its 76,000 members to write only the bare minimum on report cards.
But the governing Liberals have warned that the new law — the source of the dispute with the teachers — gives them the power to intervene in any job action.
Broten has said the government could impose a new collective agreement, effectively ending any strike action. It could also intervene outside of imposing an agreement.
The affected boards include: Trillium Lakelands District School Board, Upper Grand District School Board, Wellington Catholic District School Board, Halton District School Board, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, Waterloo Region District School Board and Upper Canada District School Board.