Written in collaboration by Alie Teachman and Kasra Koushan
As of 12 November 2012, public high school teachers across Ontario are implementing legal strike action in their continuing struggle with the Ontario government over collective bargaining rights. With the passing of Bill 115, also known as the Putting Students First Act, a set of restrictions are being imposed upon teachers to form collective bargaining agreements with their individual school boards by December 31. The details of these restrictions have already been made clear; teachers will receive a pay freeze, reduced sick days, and the government is given the power to ban any job action the teachers take. Teachers have expressed a strong disapproval of the bill and the government’s approach to collective bargaining.
Now, all public high school teachers across the province will be withdrawing a series of activities that aren’t mandated by their contracts. Teachers will no longer attend staff and departmental meetings, distribute board communications or materials to the students, administer the EQAO/OSSLT tests, or communicate with parents (through email or through interviews) outside of the regular school day. Teachers will continue to take attendance, but they must stop submitting attendance forms to the office. They must also stop distributing course selection materials and collecting textbooks at the end of the school year or semester. However, teachers will continue to provide instruction to students and may still provide extra help.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has stated that its intent with this strike action is not to harm the students, but rather to pressure the government. Students at Marc Garneau have already felt the implications of this collective bargaining battle, as many teachers have been cutting back on their voluntary obligations like coaching sports teams and supervising clubs. The effects of this specific action, however, likely won’t worsen the implications for students. The sanctions that will take place are generally administrative, and thus will not affect students directly.
At the same time, the government holds the power to end this strike action at any time. Whether it does is still up in the air, but if the government takes that course of action, the OSSTF will completely withdraw from all extra-curricular or voluntary activities. Thus, the developments in this dispute between teachers and the Ontario government can eventually lead to significant losses for students. At the moment however, the implications for students are minimal.