High school strike action is back on
Trillium Lakelands District School Board trustee chair
MUSKOKA - Time has run out for the Ontario government if they were hoping to avoid strike action by secondary teachers across the province, including those in Muskoka’s Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
After agreeing to a five-day postponement of strike sanctions in a last ditch effort to reach an agreement, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation has announced discussions with the government have failed and strike action was back on as of Monday, Nov. 12.
“Some progress was made but in the end we weren’t able to reach a deal,” explained Peter Caroll, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Trillium Lakelands District president.
The list of school boards where secondary school teachers are in a position to take legal strike action has now grown to 20, as negotiations with boards fail to produce tentative agreements. The list will continue to grow week by week, until the beginning of December, when all 72 school boards across the province are expected to be in the same position.
Locally, students at the secondary level will likely notice changes in their routine this week, following the breakdown of talks. Although teachers will continue to provide instruction, they are expected to refuse to do administrative tasks and regularly assigned supervisory duties, which may mean some schools will have their cafeterias and/or libraries either locked during lunch hour or open on a rotating basis, suggested Karen Round, trustee chair for the school board.
“It’s largely an administrative strike,” said Caroll. “We’re not attending certain meetings; we’re not completing certain ministry reports; teachers are not doing the assigned supervisions at noon hour; they are not doing on calls, but at the same time … we are not striking the classroom so they are continuing to do all of the instruction, give all of the supports to students to be successful, and doing general supervision to ensure the safety of all students.”
Reached late Monday afternoon, Round said there had been no disruptions reported in Trillium Lakelands schools that day.
“We have had no adverse reports, so it looks like systems were a go today,” said Round, who acknowledged that did not mean strike action did not take place. “It didn’t seem to affect the safe operation of the school,” she said.
Round added that the motion passed last week to allow school principals the authority to lock teachers out if they deemed students to be at risk because of the strike action was ongoing.
“We’re just going to have to watch how things unfold,” she said.
Although the teachers’ federation said they have offered to continue talks and are open to further discussions, no further talks had been scheduled as of press time.
The secondary school teachers federation is among three unions who are opposing the passing of Bill 115, which, along with prohibiting teachers from striking for two years, imposes wage freezes, unpaid holidays and halves sick days in an effort to reduce the province’s $15-billion debt.
Though strike action has resumed, Minister of Education Laurel Broten could order teachers return to their full duties at any time.
“Bill 115 gives the minister extraordinary powers to end strike action,” confirmed Caroll. “She would not have to go to the legislature. She would simply have to make a decision that could be then approved by cabinet and she can indeed end strike action. At this point the minister has not intervened.”
We are not striking the classroom, so they are con