Teachers pull plug on extra curriculars 0
Public teachers across Renfrew County are showing their frustration for the provincial government by taking a pause from some activities they’ve typically been involved in.
For high school teachers and other members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation including office managers, early childhood educators and occasional teachers represented by District 28 of the union, this meant wearing black on Wednesday and taking the day off from coaching or being involved in extra curricular activities, explained Jeff Barber, president of the Renfrew County local.
“There is a great sadness and disappointment with the current situation and this is not something we want to be dealing with,” he said.
The rationale behind these measures is that since the government passed legislation insisting on a two-year wage freeze, pay cuts, benefit reductions and banning of strikes or lockout action for workers in Ontario’s public school system, the teachers will continue to do what they are paid to do, which is teach and ensure the safety of the students while they are at school.
“This is not very democratic, so the teachers are reconsidering some of their commitments based on the new reality of their working conditions,” Mr. Barber said.
He called the legislation a cloud which is hanging over their heads, which is both distracting and frustrating.
Also at the heart of the matter and what will leave make the greatest impact is that the legislation denies the unions the ability to negotiate contracts for its members.
“We have been willing to negotiate to try and come to a solution, but all of our attempts have been rebuffed and the other side is not willing to listen,” he added. “It has been a take it or leave it approach. Negotiations have been working for a long time and I think anyone can recognize the value of talking things over to come up with a solution. Instead we are being denied that opportunity.”
On the elementary side, teachers have also been asked to take a pause in response to Bill 115, which the union feels strips the members of its collective bargaining agreement.
Elementary teachers are also being asked to refrain from participating in extra curricular activities and they will also be recognizing McGuinty Mondays, where teachers will be asked to arrive no earlier than 30 minutes before school, leave no later than 30 minutes after school and not attend any meetings before, during or after school on Monday, explained Allison Ryan, president Renfrew County teachers’ local of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
“Our members are sufficiently upset with the passage of this bill,” she said. “Our actions are a direct response to the Liberals passing this bill.
The union is also encouraging its members to get political by phoning, e-mailing, or visiting the office of their local members of provincial parliament. The teachers are planning to rally at Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski’s office Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
On behalf of the Renfrew County District School Board Dennis Jenkins, superintendent of employee services, acknowledged the disappointment with Bill 115 as it limits what can be bargained at the local level. He feels the board is caught in the crossfire between provincial unions and the provincial government.
“We will continue to bargain with our employee groups, but we can only offer what the government funds,” he said. “Our focus will be on the more local issues. We will continue to negotiate locally to get the best deal possible for the students of Renfrew County. It is our position that employees should not disrupt the students as they express their dissatisfaction with Bill 115. There are other avenues where this conflict can play out.”
The board is concerned about the impact of the legislation on local collective bargaining and its ability to negotiate in the best interests of our students.
“We are concerned about the potential negative impact in the schools as well,|” he added. “The board will do what it can to try to minimize the impact on the students.
Tina Peplinskie is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist