In April, ETFO and other education unions won a major victory at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The court found that the Ontario government’s Bill 115, imposed in the fall of 2012, was a violation of the collective bargaining rights of education unions.
Work to Rule: Q+A With General Secretary Gene Lewis
As locals completed filing their no board reports, each moved into a legal strike position. This means that the suggestions that have been coming from provincial office over the past couple of months have become directives. Job action is mandatory. The only way that we will succeed in our goal of achieving free and fair collective agreements is by standing together. All teacher, occasional teacher, ESP, PSP and DECE locals will participate.
What is our focus in the work to rule?
Members must focus on instructing students and ensuring their safety. Members must not participate in administrative, voluntary or extra curricular activities, any activities that take place outside of the regular school day, school-based and system-level meetings of any kind, or regional/provincial ministry meetings. Full details will be provided through your Provincial Takeover Bulletins. Speak to your local for more information and get involved. Check controlyourfuture.ca regularly and make sure you are subscribed to the collective bargaining e-newsletter.
What are we trying to achieve with the work to rule?
Withdrawing from administrative and voluntary activities is about the only effective way that teachers can protest the loss of our rights. We are demonstrating that we will stand our ground and fight for collective bargaining rights. As educators, it is important to stand up for our principles and for democracy in Ontario.
What effect are educator actions having on students?
Our intention is to have a minimal impact on students and to continue doing the most important work in the classroom, teaching students. Having said that, being in a conflict with the government over collective agreements does affect the school environment. Because of our withdrawal from voluntary and extra-curricular activities and the debate over the teachers’ strike in the media, students are affected. However, they would be much more affected if we did not stand up for our democratic rights. We teach students to respect each other, to think critically, and to stand up for what they believe in. In fighting back against Bill 115, we do the same.
What kinds of resources are available for speaking with parents?
If parents have questions about the work to rule, reassure them that we are doing what we can to minimize the impact on students – in-class educational programming will not be affected. You can also provide parents with one of two pamphlets titled Message to Parents from Public ElementaryTeachers or Message to Parents from Education Professionals, depending on what is appropriate. These offer a more in-depth explanation to parents and are available through your local or by download at controlyourfuture.ca.
Why aren’t we on a full withdrawal of service?
The impact of work to rule is putting sand in the gears. As this point, we want to continue classroom instruction, doing our classroom work while withdrawing from voluntary, extra-curricular, and administrative activities. See your Takeover Bulletin for details or con- tact your local. As the situation changes, our response will change as well.
What are we doing in response to Bill 115?
Bill 115 is an unprecedented attack on col- lective bargaining rights in Ontario. ETFO has responded by filing a court challenge against the bill on the grounds that the law, which strips the education sector of the right to bargain collectively, violates rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights andFreedoms. In November, we also launched an Ontario-wide online, radio and print campaign to stop Bill 115 with ad space purchased in more than 100 community newspapers. Go to stopbill115.ca to learn more, add your name to the petition and share with your networks. In addition, members have been participating in demonstrations, information pickets, and writing letters to editors and MPPs. All of these actions indicate to the minister and the government that we will not stand by and let our rights be taken away. Stay in touch with your local in order to get the most up to date information on our negotiations.
What will happen in January if we are legislated back to work or the government decides to impose a collective agreement?
If the government imposes a collective agreement, we will respond with ongoing political action. The nature of this action will be communicated through local meetings and Takeover Bulletins. Stay in touch with your local and remember to check controlyourfuture.ca. As the situation changes, so will our response.