Excellent Article Explaining What’s Happening in the Education Sector!

Educational workers fight back against government The Belleville Intelligencer Wed Apr 29 2015
Section: Editorial/Opinion

Educational workers have become the main target for the provincial government’s austerity agenda.

Even before the provincial budget was announced, it had been decided educational workers would have to settle for a’net zero’collective agreement. After the debacle of Bill 115, the government came up with Bill 122, an Act respecting collective bargaining in Ontario’s school system. Since the end of August, the province, provincial teacher federations and the Ontario Public School Board Association (OPSBA)have been negotiating locally and provincially. Not surprisingly, bargaining has hit an impasse and educational workers are battling back.

A little history is necessary to understand educational workers’ frustration with the provincial government and its attempt to reduce the deficit on the backs of educational workers. Previously, Bill 115 was a law giving the provincial government extraordinary abusive powers that they used a couple of years ago, to unilaterally impose conditions and take away previously agreed rights. The government, through Bill 115, was able to deduct $1.2 billion dollars from its staggering deficit by taking away (contract stripping, or strips) previously agreed to rights. Legal challenges are now going through the courts re: Bill 115 and the abuse of collective bargaining rights.
Bill 122 was then promoted as a better way to negotiate and a template to encourage success for collective agreements between the province and federations.

However, this bill has proven to be utterly confusing with negotiations taking place at two levels, the provincial and the local level. Add to the bargaining table a third party OPSBA, and one needs a program to decide who is bargaining for what. Despite the confusion, using Bill 122 as a template, negotiations have been on-going since September 2014.

Amazingly, one of the snags in achieving a negotiated collective agreement has been the make-up of classes. More students in each class are now considered okay by the government. Once considered the cornerstone of this provincial government’s education policy, class size has become a major impediment. Shockingly the government has flip-flopped on this policy because they certainly did not run this as an election platform. Astoundingly, OPSBA too, believes more students in a classroom, with fewer support workers, will have no effect on student achievement. Sadly, it appears the only achievement that truly matters is the amount of money spent on educational workers. The implied message is that the educational workers will make the system work no matter how underfunded, and more importantly understaffed, it may become.

Specifically being isolated and targeted by the provincial government’s austerity agenda has raised concerns among educational workers. Educational workers do not begrudge the provincial OPP raise of roughly eight per cent but ask the question; why are we not receiving similar treatment? It has been noted the OPP is very much a male-oriented profession, whereas the educational workers are very much a female-oriented profession. Is government policy sexist? Certainly, the argument can be made.

After having negotiated rights taken away unilaterally (Bill 115), becoming the scapegoat for the provincial government’s inept financial decisions and deficit, and somehow becoming the isolated public sector targets, educational workers are fighting back. Nobody wants to be on strike. However, to simply accept strips from the government isn’t going to happen. Having dictated conditions to educational workers for their last ‘contract’, the government is trying to do it again.

Meanwhile, Liz Sandals, the education minister, is mystified and perplexed as to why the educational community is upset. Pretending to be bewildered is a strategy, but not necessarily a good one. Already two high school district school boards are walking the picket lines, Durham (Oshawa and area) and Rainbow (Sudbury). Next week Peel (Mississauga) may join in the rolling strikes. Meaningful negotiations need to be encouraged by Sandals before more strikes in Ontario begin. To do that, collective agreements need to be finalized through the bargaining process. Unfortunately, history suggests this may be difficult for Sandals and this government.

Ultimately, labour unrest is avoidable with fair negotiated agreements, but not all sides, particularly this provincial government are willing to make Bill 122 work.

(c) 2015 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.


Update on Collective Bargaining/Strike Action in the Education Sector

  • OSSTF high school teachers at the Rainbow District School Board are set to take strike action on Monday, April 27th.
  • OSSTF high school teachers at the Peel District School Board are set to take strike action on Monday, May 4th.
  • ETFO elementary school teachers are in a legal strike position on May 10th.
  • OECTA (the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association) got a strong strike mandate from their members (94%).
  • Education support staff represented by CUPE are still waiting for an OLRB decision on central versus local negotiation items (3 hearing dates set in June).

OSSTF Teachers in Peel Region Ready to Strike

MEDIA RELEASE: OSSTF/FEESO teachers in Peel Region ready to strike

For Immediate Release: April 21, 2015

>From the Provincial Office of OSSTF

(Mississauga)-The Teacher and Occasional Teacher Bargaining Units in OSSTF/FEESO District 19, Peel, will begin legal strike action on Monday, May 4 if a local collective agreement is not reached with the Peel District School Board.

“Our collective agreements expired in August of 2014, and since that time our members have shown a great deal of patience despite the slow pace of bargaining. Their work both in and outside of the classroom becomes more demanding all the time, but the employer has refused to address their concerns in any meaningful way at the bargaining table. The school board’s approach to bargaining will have to change dramatically if they want to avoid a full withdrawal of services,” said Mike Bettiol, District President.

OSSTF/FEESO Executive Officer Sue Doughty-Smith, Chair of the District 19 negotiating teams, said, “Our goal remains to negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement with the Board, but our members are becoming increasingly frustrated. They have given their bargaining teams an overwhelming mandate with the strike votes taken in the fall, and they have made their concerns very clear. The Board’s complacency and indifference to our interest in renewing our collective agreements has done nothing but exacerbate those concerns.”

“Our members’ patience is now wearing thin. We continue, however, to hope that the employer responds in a constructive way, and we remain ready to negotiate at any time in an effort to prevent disruption,” concluded Doughty-Smith.

OSSTF/FEESO, founded in 1919, has 60,000 members across Ontario. They include public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, early childhood educators, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, university support staff, and many others in education.

CUPE Ontario in Solidarity With Striking High School Workers in Durham

CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn representing us on OSSTF picket line.
CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn representing us on OSSTF picket line.

DURHAM, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – April 20, 2015) – CUPE Ontario sends a message of support and solidarity to the members of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) who began a strike in Durham Region today.

CUPE Ontario is the province’s community union, representing 255,000 members in cities, towns and villages all across the province, including 55,000 education workers in schools across Ontario.

“Today we send a clear message of solidarity on behalf of all CUPE Ontario members to those education workers who are beginning strike action today in Durham region,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “CUPE members who work in schools across the province, including in Durham Region, will do all we can do to support the effort of these workers and their union, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) to achieve a fair collective agreement.”

Teachers at the Durham District School Board represented by OSSTF began strike action on Monday April 20, due to a lack of meaningful collective bargaining and proposals tabled that would result in concessions from their collective agreements.
“Now, when the parties have been legislated into a completely new bargaining process, is not the time to re-write and strip the collective agreements, especially in light of the significant losses as a result of Bill 115,” said Terri Preston, chair of the School Boards co-ordinating and central bargaining committee of CUPE Ontario.

“No matter which education workers we’re talking about, it’s the same for us all. Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. The Government cannot expect education workers to sit idly by while they are treated without the respect and consideration they deserve for the significant contributions they make to the education system,” said Preston.

In the Durham region, as in all other communities across Ontario, CUPE represents thousands of members who work in municipalities, universities, school boards, social services, airlines and healthcare.

“We will work to build support for these picket lines in Durham from all CUPE members in Durham region and the GTA,” said Candace Rennick, secretary-treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “The fight for fairness being taken on by OSSTF education workers is our fight, and with support and solidarity, when these workers win, we all do – including the thousands of children and families who rely on the skill and passion of these dedicated education workers.”

• Andrea Addario
CUPE Communications

Craig Saunders
CUPE Communications


April 20, 2015

OSSTF Strikes

CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn representing us on OSSTF picket line.
CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn representing us on OSSTF picket line.

As you know, OSSTF teachers in Durham are on strike as of Monday, April 20th. Six other boards around the province have been targeted, and strikes may commence in those boards in the days to come. The next publicly announced strike deadline is Rainbow District School Board (Sudbury), for April 27th. No deadlines have yet been released for Lakehead (Thunder Bay), Halton, Peel, Ottawa-Carleton, or Waterloo boards.

CUPE has been meeting with the leadership of OSSTF in the last week about their plans for job action. Please note: so far the OSSTF strikes are all related to local bargaining, and not their provincial table.

We have asked that all CUPE local presidents in the targeted OSSTF boards meet with the local OSSTF presidents to discuss what kind of support we can lend to their strikes. It is absolutely crucial that we show great solidarity with the teachers in their job actions. This will send a clear message to our employers and the provincial government. As we all know, solidarity breeds solidarity, and it also helps win strikes.

CUPE has written to Premier Kathleen Wynne to ask for a no-reprisals agreement for CUPE members who do not cross picket lines. An agreement like this was reached between CUPE and the government in the BC teachers’ strike last year. We do not yet have a reply to our letter.

In the event we do not secure a no-reprisals agreement, members are expected to report to work even if the school is closed. OSSTF represents the office clerical staff at the Rainbow School Board, and they’ve told us they will inform their clerical members to report to work even if the schools are closed.

Generally in strike situations picket line protocols are established. We ask all CUPE members to respect any protocols OSSTF establishes. For example, if the picket line protocol dictates that people will experience a three minute delay before being permitted to cross, please stand in line and wait the full three minutes. If you are driving, wait patiently (one person to a car) even if other motorists are impatient. Holding up traffic and creating chaos is a way of assisting the strikers.

If you are driving, place a sign in your window showing support for the job action (e.g. “CUPE supports OSSTF job action).” Spend some time walking the line with teachers on the way in or on the way out of work.

If for any reason you feel unsafe in crossing the picket line, you have a right to refuse unsafe work. You should go to a safe location and call your supervisor, and report that you feel unsafe. You may be assigned to a different work location.

If your employer indicates that CUPE members are not to report to work, insist that they are paid, and remember that layoffs can only be accomplished through the layoff provisions in your collective agreements, so please enforce those.

Other tables
We understand that ETFO has also requested a no-board report, and that it will be issued sometime this week. This will trigger a legal strike position for them in early to mid-May.
OECTA has left the provincial bargaining table and has indicated to the management team that they will not return until after they have taken their provincial strike vote on April 23rd.

Reminder regarding OLRB dispute resolution process
CUPE has filed its final submission to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to settle our list of items to be bargained at the central table. The management team will respond by the end of April, and our hearing dates are set for June 8th, 10th and 23rd.
As we mentioned in our last bulletin, until we have a final determination of what items we are bargaining at the provincial table, neither we nor the employer can file for conciliation, nor can they ask for a no-board. To be clear: this means we cannot be in a legal strike or lockout position until the list of central items is determined.
We also remind you that this is not a time for us to slow down in our mobilizing, but rather a key opportunity to get our strike committees up and running. We are bringing the OSBCC committee members and alternates together this week to develop a mobilization strategy. We need to keep our members engaged and in the public eye over the rest of the school year in preparation for the fall.

We also need to hold trustees and the government to account for their continued refusal to address our issues at the provincial bargaining table, and to deal with the shortfall in funding in a visible way.

Remember to check for updates at www.osbcc.ca, to “like” us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CUPEeducationworkers, and to follow us on Twitter @osbcc .

OSSTF Takes Strike Action in Durham

Talks Fail — OSSTF/FEESO Durham teachers on strike April 20

WHITBY, ON – Apr 18 2015 — District 13, Durham, of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) is disappointed to report that negotiations with the Durham District School Board have not led to an agreement and high school teachers and occasional teachers will be on strike as of Monday, April 20.

The employer continues to insist on the punitive micro-management of teachers’ professional lives in a way that diminishes their ability to provide the best possible education to our students.

“Our teachers would much rather be inside classrooms with their students”, stated Dave Barrowclough, District 13 President.  “But this employer’s refusal to engage in real negotiations has really left us no option. They refuse to enshrine in the collective agreement even language that would clearly enable us to improve our teaching practices.  Until they undertake a wholesale change of approach, progress isn’t possible, although we will remain ready to engage in meaningful bargaining at any time.”

“We have worked hard, in the most sincere way possible, to reach an agreement that meets the needs of both parties. It’s unfortunate that Michael Barrett, Chair, and the rest of the board, seem more beholden to some inexplicable strategy of inaction cooked up by the Ontario Public School Boards Association than they are to the educational needs of students who are supposed to be in their charge,” said Harvey Bischof, OSSTF Vice President and chair of the local negotiations team.
OSSTF/FEESO, founded in 1919, has 60,000 members across Ontario. They include public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, early childhood educators, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, university support staff, and many others in education.

OSBCC Bargaining Update

April 10, 2015

Strike Vote Results – an overwhelming mandate

The last of our strike votes were held on March 31st, and as you may know by now, the results of the central vote tally are a resounding 93 per cent in favour of taking job action if necessary. (This percentage reflects the number of our members who voted yes out of the total votes cast across the province).

Thanks to all locals and staff for organizing your votes so quickly and efficiently in March. You were very nimble, which bodes well for all the mobilizing we will need to do to get a fair deal. Many of you have said your members turned out in record numbers to vote, and the pictures on your Facebook pages tell an amazing story of solidarity, and of your commitment to protect our jobs, the services we provide, and our contracts.108 bargaining units across the province participated in the vote, and an additional local will be voting April 19th. Locals who are contacted by media about their local results should feel free to release that local number (as a percentage) if you wish.

Case management hearing at the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)

On April 1st, we had a case management meeting at the OLRB. The process established by legislation has a dispute resolution mechanism in the event that the parties cannot agree on what should be bargained centrally vs. locally. We’ve had to invoke that mechanism as we’ve had so little cooperation from the employer side in establishing the list for central bargaining.

At the April 1st meeting, it was clear the chair of the OLRB understood our issues. We were hoping to reach agreement that most of the outstanding items can be captured under existing items we’ve already agreed to. However, the employer side  barely moved, and so the case management meeting did not yield results. We will go to a formal hearing in June.

Please note: despite the June hearing dates, there is nothing stopping the parties from meeting between now and then to reach agreement on the central list and get down to bargaining (this  happened with OSSTF after their hearing dates were set – they were able to reach agreement on the central list before the matter got to hearing). The chair of the OLRB has suggested this, and we will communicate our willingness to meet. We hope that the overwhelming strike mandate you have given us will help the employer side focus on the need to start bargaining seriously.

Our final briefs for the dispute resolution hearing will be submitted by April 16th. The management team and province will have an opportunity to respond by April 30th, and then we will go to hearings in June. We’ve currently scheduled three dates: June 8th, June 10th, and June 23rd.

Other bargaining tables

OSSTF has set deadlines around the end of April for seven boards across the province. These strike deadlines are related to local bargaining for teachers. The OSSTF locals who will be in a strike position are with the following school boards: Durham, Halton, Ottawa-Carleton, Peel, Sudbury (Rainbow), Thunder Bay (Lakehead), and Waterloo. OSSTF’s support staff table has just had a first day of bargaining on April 8th. The ETFO teacher table has filed for conciliation and expects to be in a legal strike position at the beginning of May. OECTA is conducting strike votes now.

What comes next

This is not down time for us. It is more important than ever to keep members mobilized now. With the strike votes done, this is the opportunity to ensure that all locals’ strike committees are robust and active. Please ensure that you have up-to-date phone and email information for all your members.

We are also asking all locals to work hard at the local level to fight school closures (watch for notices in your local papers about public consultations and participate), maintain your alliances with community groups, expose the flaws in the funding formula, and advocate alongside parents who are fighting for supports for kids with special needs. Members need to be engaged and informed; trustees need to be held to account as they balance their budgets. These are ultimately some of the best tools we have in protecting our jobs and the services we provide.

Please also check us out at:
• www.osbcc.ca
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CUPEeducationworkers
• Twitter: @osbcc