JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
NIAGARA – Public high school teachers will follow the lead of their elementary counterparts, staging a one-day walkout next week in defiance of provincial legislation banning strikes.
The move by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, which represents 60,000 members across the province, was announced in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon.
The provincewide job action, which is scheduled for Jan. 16., is the union’s response to the provincial government’s decision to use its powers under controversial Bill 115 to suspend collective bargaining and impose contracts as part of its deficit reduction plan.
“It is regrettable that the provincial government has chosen to continue down this path and not respected the rights of education workers,” said OSSTF president Ken Coran.
“OSSTF/FEESO members have told their local and provincial leadership that should the Minister of Education impose working conditions on them, removing their ability to have the union engage in free collective bargaining on their behalf, that they would refuse to engage in voluntary and extracurricular activities. They further voted in favour of a day of action in protest.”
Public elementary teachers, including those in Niagara, have planned a one-day “political protest” for tomorrow.
The action, which the government argues would constitute an illegal strike, has forced the cancellation of classes.
District School Board of Niagara officials say schools will remain open, despite the cancellation of classes. Student transportation has also been cancelled for the day.
OSSTF bargaining unit leaders met Wednesday, deciding to:
- “Support the withholding of voluntary and extracurricular activities schedule a day of political protest for Jan. 16, to be held if the government has not repealed Bill 115, rescinded the Order in Council that imposed the OECTA MoU and restored free collective bargaining by that date. The political protest will be held locally and will include picketing at Liberal and Tory MPP offices where possible or at local school board offices.”
- “Replace participation in voluntary or extra-curricular activities by engaging in a public education campaign highlighting the loss of the right to free collective bargaining and the loss of democracy and its implications for all Ontarians.”
- “Reconvene a meeting of local bargaining unit presidents to discuss next steps after the Ontario Liberal Leadership Convention or earlier, if government actions warrant it.”
Coran continued: “OSSTF/FEESO is willing to meet with the Minister of Education at any time to discuss the reinstatement of collective bargaining rights or to meet with the new premier to discuss any changes in approach to bargaining should the current minister be unwilling.”
(This story is in development. Please check back later for updates.)