Monday, 29 June 2015

Ontario Teaching Post 2014

September 2015 in Ontario IS NOT like September 2012 - it’s 365 days different. Let’s get that out of the way up front. If you don’t understand what I mean, this post is for you.
I won't force you to read this... but only comment if you do.

Teachers in Ontario have been teaching without a negotiated contract since September 2014. (One could argue it’s been longer, since the last contract was largely legislated, but I’m not here to argue.) And hey, maybe we WILL have a contract this September. (I’m writing this post in June.) But given how Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals has said “It is typical of school board bargaining that their bargainers have a habit historically of disappearing during July and August” when THAT IS NOT THE CASE HERE... I’m not holding my breath.

The spin is strong. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. A few years ago, I did a media roundup of what’s been going on in the world of Ontario Teacher Contracts. In the interest of informing the public, I think we’re due once more. This post is the SECOND of TWO: It will provide INFORMATION AFTER the Teacher Contracts expired in 2014. Looking back: Here was the first post.

Same disclaimer as before: I’m not an expert, just an Ontario teacher, who thus has a better sense of which search terms to use. Moreover, all I’m doing is pulling information out of the media, though some personal opinions do creep in. Note that most newspaper links do have a limit on the number of complimentary articles you can read.

Final Note: For those out-of-province, Ontario has a Liberal government... though BC also has a Liberal government, and we’ve seen what’s happened there. With the government is OPSBA (Ontario Public School Boards’ Association). On the other side, there are also several different unions in Ontario negotiating simultaneously, including OSSTF (Secondary School Teachers, Secretaries, Custodians, etc), ETFO (Elementary School Teachers), OECTA (Catholic School Teachers) and AEFO (Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens).


What does the future hold for Ontario Teachers?
“Publicly, for the Wynne government, it’s all about optimism, with teacher contracts having expired at the end of last month and negotiations beginning.”

(I’ll give the government this - MUCH better handled than in 2012. Of note, the article contrasts Ontario and the Strike in BC, which was still ongoing at that time. It’s worth reading in full.)

Ontario teacher talks hit quick snag in new system
“After just four days of talks at the new, more formal provincial negotiating table ... OSSTF said parties were unable to agree which issues they can hammer out centrally, and which to leave to local bargaining.”

(That went downhill fast. This relates to Bill 122 in my prior post: what issues are local? Because local conditions in Toronto are NOT the same as those in Ottawa. A reminder here that teacher representatives were ready to talk over the summer - could we not have reached this point sooner? We don’t disappear, at any rate.)

OCTOBER 1, 2014
OSSTF remains ‘optimistic’
“Public high school teachers, who have been without a contract since August 31, will vote next week on whether to strike. ... Thomas said the union is still hopeful for a positive outcome from its talks with the province.”

(The vote ended up in favour of a strike, should it be necessary. OSSTF teachers actually had to vote twice - once on whether we would strike provincially, and a second time on whether we would strike locally. Given the two tables under the new Bill 122. That’s important, we’ll come back to it later.)

DECEMBER 3, 2014
Elementary teachers vote 95% to give union strong strike mandate
“Elementary teachers president Sam Hammond said yesterday the strike vote is a normal part of the process to provide leverage at the table for negotiators to ‘bargain seriously’.”

(Elementary teachers have now joined secondary school public teachers in sending a message to the provincial government.)


MARCH 14, 2015
High school teachers’ strike possible for Peel, Durham, Halton: Union
“Elliot said the talks between the province and the union, which also represents school support staff, have been fruitless, with parties yet to gather for the ‘central bargaining date.’”

(Other regions which would possibly be affected: Rainbow (incl. Sudbury), Thunder Bay, Waterloo and Ottawa-Carleton. Here’s where things can get murky. Remember how there are now two tables, Provincial and Local, both running in parallel - recall, a lot of the early issues involved deciding which issues were CENTRAL and which were NOT. So, the seven boards listed above were identified as local problem areas, even as complaints were listed against the province.)

APRIL 7, 2015
Possible Strike Looming for Ontario School Boards
“The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation is taking the final legal step to clear the way for strikes in the seven hand-picked regions, with two boards already a week into a mandatory 17-day countdown”

(That’s three weeks later. I'm pointing out that there are a lot of steps you have to take before you can legally strike. In case you were wondering.)

APRIL 15, 2015
High School Teachers’ Union OSSTF walks away from negotiations
1-“‘We’ve said all along that this is a net zero round of bargaining and we remain committed to that’ ... [Liz] Sandals added.”
2-“Dave Barrowclough, president of the Durham branch, District 13, does not feel the breakdown of provincial talks affects the local situation.”

(First, I believe that going into a negotiation saying “These are our expectations! We’ve told them to the media!” is the wrong philosophy. You should go in saying “These are our proposals. What are yours?” Of course, OSSTF also broadcast possible local strikes in March, so read into things as you will. Incidentally, OSSTF would later return to negotiations. Then leave again.)

(Second, we again see the split here between local and provincial - and at this point there was a clock ticking down locally in Durham (just outside Toronto) even as central talks broke down. Could their local deal be reached before a provincial one, to avert a strike? Well... it would have been a first.)

APRIL 24, 2015
Catholic teachers give union strong strike mandate
“The Ontario English Catholic teachers (OECTA) voted 94.2 per cent in favour of striking.”

(My most recent articles are on OSSTF, but other unions are attempting to negotiate too.)

APRIL 29, 2015
As teachers’ strikes loom over Ontario, the fight isn’t about salaries, though it is about the bottom line
“It’s been over a week since public high school teachers in Durham went on strike, closing schools for 21,000 students, and no one seems to be able to explain why.”

(Durham and Sudbury are now on strike, Peel possibly joining them next week. That article mentions how “elementary teachers are ready to strike as early as May 10th, and Catholic teachers are taking steps towards a walkout”. A key part of the issue - in this other article - notes how “the province wants to eliminate class caps on class sizes”.)

MAY 8, 2015
Ontario Elementary Teachers Crank Up Pressure, Release Job Action Details
“Teachers will withdraw administrative functions until the government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) take some of their demands off the bargaining table.”

(Those administrative functions included administering standardized tests and writing report card comments. I haven’t talked much about OPSBA yet - the local people who sit at the provincial table alongside the government. Again, personal opinion here, I think that’s part of the trouble, as it makes things look like this editorial cartoon by Steve Nease. But that’s me.)
Visit neasecartoons for more of his work

MAY 15, 2015
Ottawa High School Teachers to Begin Job Action Thursday
“[OSSTF] gave the school district its five day notice of strike action on Friday.”

(There’s specifics in that article if you like. Basically, Ottawa-Carleton - and Halton - wouldn’t be doing a full walkout, but would be withdrawing administrative services. Also mentioned in that article, Liz Sandals decides to seek advice from the Education Relations Commission of Ontario.)

MAY 26, 2015
Ontario High School Teachers’ Strikes Illegal, Labour Board Rules
“The labour board determined that the local strikes at the three school boards are in contravention of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act.”

(It likely doesn’t mean what you think. It’s not so much that the strike was illegal, it’s that the content of the strike was illegal. Remember, the Act they refer to was only passed in April of 2014 - and the OLRB took days to consider this, as it would set a precedent. There’s an interesting Primer on the Teacher’s Strike Decision at that link. I’ll summarize (TL;DR) for you:

Again, two tables running in parallel: Provincial and Local. The argument by the school boards was that the teachers weren’t striking over local issues, but rather provincial ones. As evidence, there was at least one sign about ‘Class Size’, which is a provincial table issue. In the end, the OLRB agreed, and told OSSTF they had two weeks to remove all the signs that included provincial matters, after which they could go back out on strike - exclusively locally. And during those two weeks, teaching had to resume. Make sense?)

MAY 27, 2015
Teachers’ plan to resume strike unacceptable: Ontario education minister
“Minister Sandals said that back-to-work legislation -- known as Bill 103, or the Protecting the School Year Act -- will make the resumption of strikes in those three boards illegal for the rest of the school year, because the Education Relations Commission had said the school year is in jeopardy.”

(This article also notes that NDP leader Andrea Horwath does not support the legislation - which is worth a mention, because if she had supported it, the legislation could have passed two days earlier. Before the OLRB ruling even came down. As things stood, it passed the very next day, May 28th. So even after the two weeks were up, the three boards that had been striking would have to keep teaching, due to Bill 103.)

JUNE 5, 2015
High School Teachers file for Conciliation
1-“If parties are in negotiation, they must seek conciliation to try to resolve issues before engaging in a strike. ... The next steps for the secondary school teachers union will be the appointment of a conciliator and a meeting between the parties and the conciliator.”
2-“Francophone teachers voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike this week.”

(This article gets a bit cluttered between references to both OSSTF and AEFO - though that does give me a two-for-one. At this point we see most teachers - or at least, their unions - agreeing that the province and OPSBA aren’t doing a very good job of negotiating. It’s worth noting that we’ve reached this point despite a third party mediator - Kevin Burkett, one of Canada’s most respected labour arbitrators - being called in, back in May.)

JUNE 9, 2015
Instead of a report card,
have this X-Ray.
Don’t Expect Report Cards, Boards Warn Parents
“Some boards had hoped to hire extra help for principals to input marks so that report cards could be completed, given members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, now in the midst of work-to-rule, won’t be doing that or providing any report card comments. However, the Ministry of Education is expected to announce no money will be provided to do so”

(This is during the second phase of ETFO job action, which now includes not holding grade promotion meetings. The report card announcement resulted in some backlash, given how teachers were providing marks to school boards, merely not entering them - and how long does that take anyway? This particular article goes on to point out how the Ministry of Education saved $40.4 million in salaries when OSSTF teachers went on strike, wondering why they didn’t use that money.)

JUNE 17, 2015
TDSB about-face on report cards prompts other boards to promise marks
“A ‘tidal wave’ of schools across Ontario will now provide students’ final marks or a bare-bones report card after a surprise announcement by the Toronto board that it will send out the information to families by mid-July.”

(Basically, with an extended deadline and volunteers, marks are possible. Even the president of ETFO, Sam Hammond, tweeted out a thanks after this. Of course... the cynical side of me believes they merely solved a problem that they themselves created, in order to look like heroes. But that's my opinion.)

JUNE 22, 2015
Teacher lockout ‘last resort’ says Liz Sandals
“Education Minister Liz Sandals says teachers frustrated with the state of contract negotiations could be locked out, but only as a last resort.”

JUNE 25, 2015
School’s out, but will it be back?
“Every teacher in the province will likely be in a legal strike position by September, opening up the possibility September will usher in a new level of nastiness to the standoff between unions and the province.”

There’s not much more I can say after those two headlines. This is where we’re at. Hopefully, the province/OPSBA stops being obstinate about controlling every moment of a teacher’s day (including class sizes), and the unions can compromise given the constraints the government is apparently under.

Either way, I ask you, the reader: please don’t say that September 2015 is like September 2012. Not when it’s so much more than that.

1 comment:

    JUL 28: Peel board, high school teachers sign local deal: (Local before Provincial!)

    AUG 20: OSSTF reaches tentative deal as elementary teachers’ union unveils work-to-rule plan

    AUG 25: Catholic teachers hammer out tentative deal with province

    SEP 4: Ontario’s education workers to begin province-wide job action on Sept 10 (Support Staff matter!)