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Teacher’s Unions Vs. Ford Government - Tensions Rise

Teachers and teacher unions have been participating in their work to rule campaign across Ontario in protest of Doug Ford and the Provincial Government’s changes to the education system, and parents and students have already begun to feel the impact of the actions. Yesterday (January, 13, 2020) teachers in Catholic and Public schools have entered their next phase of the work to rule campaign, with high schools planning to enter their next phase on January 15.

Work to rule is a term given to employees who choose to do only the bare minimum required by their job as a labour action to help manifest change or to protest changes that have, or will be made. This is considered less unruly than strikes and lockouts.

While the Catholic Schools begun phase 1 of their work to rule campaign yesterday, public schools have began phase 3 (also as of yesterday). There are 3 phases of work to rule until teachers go to phase 4 which is a full out strike.

The difference between the 3 phases can vary from union to union. The 4 main unions involved are the ETFO (Elementary Teachers Foundation Ontario), OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association), and OSSTF (Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Foundation) and the AEFO (Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens). Each union is recognized under the Labour Relations Act .

Each phase of the rule to work campaign differs slightly from union to union, but here is some of the information we found.

Phase 1 ( Started for public schools on November 26th, 2019, January 13th 2020 for Catholic schools, and Thursday January 16 for French schools.)

Phase 1 for ETFO...

"* NOT participate in any school board or Ministry of Education professional learning offered outside of the instructional day (including online or face-to-face professional learning); * NOT participate in activities related to the Fundamentals of Math Strategy (except as referenced above); * NOT participate in any Ministry of Education online training or webinars; * NOT participate in any EQAO-related activities; * NOT participate in any way in the development of the Math Proficiency Test for faculty of education students; * NOT complete any surveys/data collection activities (except for what ETFO members deem is necessary for their own reporting requirements, as per PPM 155); * NOT attend meetings (online or face-to-face) with Ministry of Education Achievement Officers; * NOT participate in school board activities on Professional Activity (PA) Days – ETFO members will work in their assigned worksites on their own self-directed activities; * NOT attend staff/division/grade team meetings; * NOT undertake the role of ‘Teacher in Charge’ (unless remuneration is specifically provided for this role in the local collective agreement); * NOT participate in school board/school improvement planning activities (BIPSA or SIPSA); * NOT respond to electronic communications from the school administrator/direct supervisor for non-school-based staff, outside of the instructional day (unless for reasons of personal/student safety, an OT accepting work, or support for students with special needs); * NOT undertake the role of divisional chair/team lead (unless remuneration is specifically provided for this role in the local collective agreement); * NOT participate in any school board committee (with the exception of School Council, staffing committees, labour management committees or health and safety committees); * NOT participate on any school board writing team or in school board curriculum/resource development; * NOT complete Term 1 Report Cards – teachers WILL provide the school administrator with a class list of marks for the various subjects/strands taught, or one brief comment per frame for the Kindergarten Communication of Learning; * NOT undertake the role of report card administrator; * NOT file the Progress Report, the Term 1 Report Card or the Kindergarten Communication of Learning. Effective Tuesday, November 26, 2019, ETFO members will: * CONTINUE to focus on and support the learning needs of students; * CONTINUE to maintain contact with parents regarding students; * CONTINUE to provide scheduled supervisory duties; and * CONTINUE to wear red on Fridays (or Thursdays, depending on local practice) in support of public education and participate in collective actions to demonstrate solidarity.”

Phase 1 for OECTA...

“Report Cards: OECTA members shall not participate in the preparation and inputting of report card comments, including learning skills. o Members shall input marks only on the report cards; o Kindergarten teachers shall only input one sentence per frame; o OECTA members in secondary schools shall not prepare progress report cards.

Data Entry: OECTA members shall not enter diagnostic testing data in school board systems.

EQAO: OECTA members shall not participate in any EQAO-related activities, including field testing, marking, administrative duties, test preparation, and administration of the test.

Ministry of Education OECTA members shall not attend or participate in any meetings, and/or Initiatives: undertake tasks related to any Ministry of Education initiative.

o OECTA members shall not conduct or submit any student assessment data (i.e., OnSis/MISA) for any purpose other than their own personal student assessment.

Meetings: OECTA members shall not attend staff meetings, department meetings, divisional meetings, Ministry or board in-services, or any other such activity.

Professional Development OECTA members will engage in self-directed professional development (PD) days: activities on PD days. Members must report to their regularly assigned workplace on any PD days that occur during the job action, and determine how to use that time to best meet their professional development needs. “

Phase 2 for ETFO...

( Started for public schools on December 10th 2019)

* NOT participate in any performance appraisal or evaluation process, unless the member has received a previous unsatisfactory report or is ‘under review’; * NOT post success criteria (e.g., anchor charts, learning goals, etc.) in the classroom if directed to do so by an administrator or supervisor; * NOT prepare a bulletin board or school display if requested to do so by an administrator or supervisor; * NOT plan any new field trips scheduled to occur before June 30, 2020; * NOT register for any future Additional Qualification course(s) offered by a school board; * NOT serve as ‘Teacher in Charge’; * NOT perform any duties that are normally performed by a school administrator or direct supervisor; * NOT complete system-level board reports requested by an administrator or supervisor; * NOT complete board finance-related documentation (including grant applications) requested by an administrator or supervisor; * NOT undertake the role of divisional chair/team lead; * NOT attend meetings unless they are scheduled during the instructional day AND release time is provided by an occasional teacher, occasional DECE or an occasional education worker; * NOT collect monies or participate in the electronic collection of monies for school-based activities except those for charitable causes; * NOT purchase supplies on a member’s own time if requested to do so by an administrator or supervisor; * NOT distribute any memos/letters from a school and/or school board; * NOT distribute any material related to the legal strike action of another bargaining unit; and * NOT participate in any new employee attendance or absence reporting processes, including the submission of medical certificates initiated because of full-withdrawal strike action by another union/bargaining unit.

Phase 3 for ETFO...

( Started for public schools on January 13th 2020)

* NOT plan or participate in any assemblies, except to provide supervision to students; * NOT participate in extracurricular activities except for those that are scheduled within the regular school day; * NOT participate in field trips; * NOT arrive at work any earlier than 30 minutes before the start of the instructional day for students (or for hourly paid ETFO members, not arrive any more than 30 minutes before the start of the scheduled work day); and * NOT remain at the worksite later than 15 minutes after the end of the instructional day for students (or for hourly paid ETFO members, not remain later than 15 minutes after the end of the scheduled work day).

About the Unions

The ETFO represents 83,000 teachers, occasional teachers, and education professionals employed in the public elementary schools of Ontario. OECTA represents 45,000 members including 23,000 elementary teachers, 13,000 secondary teachers, and 9,000 occasional teachers. OSSTF represents 60,000 members with 230 job classes, 151 bargaining units in 37 districts. The AEFO has 11,950 members with 322 elementary schools, and 121 secondary schools.

Other Unions

Acton UP is currently working to obtain concrete phase plans from OSSTF and AEFO, though they would likely hold similarities to their counterparts.

Next Steps

If an agreement is not made by January 17th 2020, public schools across Ontario will begin their phase 4 on January 20th, 2020, which is a full out strike and teachers will not participate in any District School Board or Ministry professional learning. OECTA plans for a 1 day strike on January 21st, 2020 if an agreement is not reached by January 17th. Certain school boards (Halton not included) of OSSTF will take part in another one-day, full withdrawal of services in selected locations across Ontario.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but we believe it is necessary to secure a fair contract and protect publicly funded education in Ontario,” says Liz Stuart, President of OECTA. “We have been doing our part to negotiate an agreement, including meeting almost 40 times with the government and school board trustees. However, the Ford government has been disorganized and disrespectful throughout the process, and they continue to insist on an agreement that includes significant cuts.”

Acton UP has reached out to the Ford Government and Ministry of Education, however they have not yet responded (they said it may take UP to 15 business days). We will update when and if we receive a response.

According to the OSSTF in a statement sent out by their President Harvey Bischof, “The Doug Ford plan is all about removing investment from the system, reducing students’ access to the teachers and education workers they rely on to help them succeed, and creating an online learning system that amounts to bargain basement education delivered on the cheap.

Nowhere in the government’s secret plan is the quality of education addressed. Nowhere is it acknowledged that success rates for students taking online courses is significantly lower than for students in a traditional classroom. Nowhere does the plan mention that significant numbers of students simply don’t learn well in a self-directed environment, without the guidance of dedicated education professionals.

Instead, the plan contemplates the creation of a “business model” for marketing Ontario’s online learning system to international students, and for licensing course content to jurisdictions outside Ontario. It contemplates a system designed not to deliver the best possible education, but designed instead to generate “maximum revenue.”

As this document makes abundantly clear, anyone who cares about Ontario’s students and their future should be deeply concerned about the kinds of values and assumptions that underpin the Ford government’s approach to education. We see clearly that the most important concerns for students – the quality of the learning experience and the chance to succeed – do not even register. The only concerns that do register are purely fiscal. This government sees education not as a key to future success for the province’s students, but rather as a product to be marketed. This is a plan clearly designed to set into motion the privatization of Ontario’s world-renowned public education system.

There is simply no evidence, anywhere, that mandatory online learning is good for students’ learning experiences or that it helps them succeed. All the evidence, in fact, points to the contrary.

OSSTF/FEESO members will remain steadfast in their resistance to the Doug Ford secret plan for mandatory e-learning. “

How parents feel

Parents and students have already started to feel the impact with one mother of a Robert Little student writing “My poor heartbroken babe. Just broke the news the trip she has been looking forward to for months was cancelled because the union cares oh so much ??Feel just as bad for the staff who don't get to choose because they are owned by their unions . “ Referring to a ski trip being cancelled as a result of the work to rule campaign.

We asked online for some parents to weigh in on what they thought about the situation and responses greatly varied with some parents siding with the Unions and other siding with the Government.

One parent and teacher writes “ The government is making no effort to address important topics like larger class sizes, this newly tabled e-learning model, and the very real issue of workplace violence and limited supports for students with special needs in the classroom. The gentle approach was clearly not working out, so now it's time to apply a little public pressure.”

A parent of an MSB student said “ I’m pro teacher and I fully understand why they are striking. The work to rule is messing with my kids volleyball practice and games to be cancelled! The grade 6 boys and girls have worked very hard over the last month to get ready for these games/tournaments that should be starting this week. As well a possibility to cancelling the grade 7 over night trip. The grade 7 parents and students worked very hard to fundraise for this trip back in the fall and now these kids may not be able to attend next month! “

A mother for a Kindergarten student that attends Mackenzie Community School (Deep River) said, “Being a mom of a kindergarten student is busy enough- not having the opportunity to plan for days off until midnight the night before a strike is frustrating. I am forced to take a last minute sick day instead of a planned vacation day or find last minute childcare. Our teachers are forced to use their 30 minute prep times for any planning they may have done outside of the classroom and therefore they’re limited to what they can offer our kids. For example- our school runs a breakfast program and the teachers selflessly shop for this on their own time- now they are forced to use their 30 minutes of prep time to do any shopping which cuts into their planning time for the class. What are the options? Cut breakfast club - something that has been identified as valuable and worthwhile in our community? “

A mother of a Christ The King secondary school writes “ As a parent I’m getting a little sick of teachers telling my student what they should think and how they should feel about this. I think my child as always is being used as a pawn in the midst of negotiations. Let’s take a look of the size of classrooms throughout history ? I don’t believe this is a true problem. As for e-learning I believe it should be supplemental and not mandatory for required credits. I feel online learning would be vastly better than the amount of supply teachers some kids end up with in courses. This is nothing to do with our kids and everything to do with finances on BOTH sides.”

“This is affecting everyone. I’m all for people striking but also the government has to meet in the middle. Having larger class sizes and e learning does not give each child the proper education. The teachers need EA to have exceptional needs children learning what they need.” said a mother of an Acton High-school student.

Another mother of MSB and Robert Little students said “ I think it's rather unfortunate that we’re not encouraging kids to participate in this protest for their education. As a parent, this strike will have an impact on me in the short term however, my bigger concern is the long term impact of this on my kids and their learning. I'm glad teachers are willing to go without pay to stand up for what's right for kids and I hope my kids learn to do the same when faced with this kind of government, targeting the most vulnerable populations when they are adults. THAT’S what being a good citizen is about and we should all stand up for the vulnerable, no matter the short term cost.”

A mother of a Stewarttown Public School student wrote, “ My daughter told me today that she’s not doing her homework tonight 'in protest'. She said 'if the teachers cancel after hours work then so do I.'”

Another commenter said, “ Teachers are already over paid, have great holidays and the class size thing is BS largely. Government needs to hold firm and put them back to work.”

There is no word on whether each side may come to an agreement, all we know is all sides are elevating their stance, with no back-down in sight.


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