by Doug Nesbitt | Published December 7, 2012 by rankandfile.ca
In the coming week, Ontario’s teachers, education workers and students will be turning up the heat on the Liberal minority government and Bill 115, which imposes a concessionary bargaining agenda on teachers unions and the school boards, and allows the cabinet to change tentative agreements and stop strikes without even legislative oversight.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has given notice that it will begin a series of one-day district-wide strikes in every public school board district before Christmas, beginning Monday December 10 in the Avon-Maitland and North East Districts. This will affect small Ontario towns and regions surrounding Stratford, Timmins, Kirkland Lake, and Kapuskasing.
On the same day, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) will be implementing what is by far its most coordinated work-to-rule campaign. All volunteer activities and extracurriculars will end, and teachers will show up 15 minutes before classes start and leave 15 minutes after classes end. This latter work-to-rule action is based on the 1990 Education Act, Regulation 298, Section 3.7 and Section 20(d).
And, for the first time since late September, a series of high school walkouts are being planned for Monday in York Region, London, and elsewhere. This will be the second wave of walkouts since late September when over thirty high schools and even elementary schools witnessed student actions against Bill 115.
The Journey to December 10
The road to ETFO’s strike action and OSSTF’s province-wide work-to-rule has been a long, complicated one. Passed in September, Bill 115 has predictably prolonged, complicated and escalated the labour conflict in Ontario, whereas free collective bargaining may have mitigated the effects and probability of labour conflict altogether. However, the unpopular Liberal minority government is committed to saving $2 billion in labour costs to reduce a $15 billion deficit (after reducing corporate taxes from 14 to 11.5 since 2009). The Liberals are now embroiled in a leadership contest after Dalton McGuinty decided to abandon what looks like a sinking ship and prorogue the legislature at the same time.
The weakness of the government is only matched by the disunity and confusion of the teachers unions. Back in July, OECTA’s leadership signed a concession-laden Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario government without consultation or ratification from the membership. OSSTF, ETFO and CUPE rightfully denounced the OECTA leadership and the MOU. The government then used the MOU as a framework for the concessions imposed on all other teachers and education workers through Bill 115, even though the school boards, not the government, bargains with the unions. Even the associations representing all of Ontario’s school boards protested Bill 115’s interference in collective bargaining.
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