Toronto

Union bargaining tactic costs 57 Catholic board teachers permanent jobs

The Toronto Catholic District School Board has cancelled offers of permanent jobs to dozens of supply teachers with the blessing of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association.

OECTA members banned from applying when union 'pink listed' TCDSB during bargaining

A union representative who asked not to be named told CBC News the 57 teachers are "extremely upset" that the board rescinded their permanent positions. (iStock)

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) has cancelled offers of permanent jobs to dozens of supply teachers with the blessing of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) — a move that has left those teachers "extremely upset," according to a union official.

In total, the board says 57 occasional teachers — who are called in by schools in the event of teacher absences — were given notices last week that their permanent status had been rescinded.

The teachers were hired by the board between May 17 and September 6 when the board and the teachers' union were locked in difficult contract negotiations.

In May, in order to increase the union's bargaining power, the provincial General Secretary of OECTA "pink listed" the Toronto District Catholic School Board. 

That effectively banned union members from applying for permanent elementary school teaching positions with the board.

Ann Hawkins, president of the English Catholic School Teachers Association, says now that a contract has been reached, "teachers and the school board have agreed to repost these positions and allow all occasional teachers the opportunity to apply for openings."

"If you choose to apply and are successful you do face possible sanctions/discipline from OECTA," the union warned its members.

Now that the teachers' union and the board have a contract that ban has been lifted.

In a notice on the Toronto Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit website, OECTA says "as a result of the tentative agreement reached between Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT) the pink listing of the TCDSB was lifted immediately September 3, 2016 at 4:55 p.m."

'Unfair advantage'

Now, those teachers who were offered employment while the board was pink listed are being punished, says a union representative who asked not to be named.

"Yes, they are extremely upset," she said. "Pink listing is a bargaining tool used to force an agreement. Unfortunately, some members chose to apply for permanent positions during that time. And now those sanctions are being brought down."

In a statement to CBC News,  Ann Hawkins, the president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said that "most of our members adhered to strike action and did not apply for new positions until a fair collective agreement could be reached with the school board. However, some chose not to adhere to this action, and they ended up with an unfair advantage over their colleagues."

Hawkins said that now that a contract has been reached, "teachers and the school board have agreed to repost these positions and allow all occasional teachers the opportunity to apply for openings."

Teachers are 'free to apply'

John Yan, spokesperson for the TCDSB, confirmed that about 57 teachers got notices, but said that they are still with the board as occasional teachers.

"They haven't lost their jobs, they've lost the permanent position, but are still employed with the board," he said.

Yan refused to comment on any details about the collective bargaining process, but said the board had to comply with Ministry of Education guidelines and the collective agreement with OECTA.

"Some of those positions they are free to apply for and in some cases those teachers who lost the permanent postion may be qualified for the open position," he said.

Hawkins says reposting the jobs will ensure that all qualified candidates will be considered for permanent positions, and that the best candidates will be hired.

"We are simply hitting the reset button to level the playing field," she said.