Work to Rule: Q+A With General Secretary Gene Lewis

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 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 Parent fro 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

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  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 As the situation changes, so will our response.