Refusal by Provincial OSSTF to pause strike while negotiations continue proves “no sincere commitment to reach local agreement,” says chair
Despite a personal commitment from the chair of the Peel District School Board to make local negotiations work, provincial representatives from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) broke off talks and left the table early morning on Monday, May 4, after four days of intensive meetings.
Notes Janet McDougald, chair of the board, “In going ahead with the strike, they proved what boards have known all along—there’s no sincere commitment by provincial OSSTF to reach a local settlement; they’re just using the excuse of not reaching local agreements as a cover for their strategy to pressure the provincial table. Not only is that disingenuous, it’s actually irresponsible to disrupt the school year for 42,000 Peel secondary students as a political tactic. There is no legitimate reason for Peel schools to be on strike—none.” To highlight the progress made at local talks, the board has posted a Peel Local Bargaining Myths and Facts document at www.peelschools.org/aboutus/labour/osstflabour.
Says McDougald, “The board negotiations team met with OSSTF-Peel on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and has met with the federation seven times before. At the most recent negotiation meetings, which included the participation of Provincial OSSTF president Paul Elliott, the board reiterated the commitment to reaching a fair, negotiated local settlement, and avoid a strike.
“I personally shared our board commitment to reaching a fair, negotiated settlement. That is the right choice for our students, parents and Peel secondary teachers. We asked for a pause in the strike so a central deal could be negotiated. Sadly, despite this and all the concerted efforts of our negotiating team, provincial OSSTF refused the offer to pause the strike. If our parents hear that our talks were ‘stalled’ or the board was not ‘serious at the table’ that is simply not true.
“I don’t wish to debate the notion that we were not ‘serious’ about these talks. Not including the most recent dates, we have met seven times; we presented a full brief weeks ago. We asked for multiple dates in March to keep the process moving and we were not given those dates by OSSTF-Peel. And, despite being presented with an OSSTF position that would be impossible to accept for any school board in terms of both the cost and the stripping of management rights, we stayed at the table and successfully negotiated agreement on over 100 individual clauses and 24 articles or letters of agreement. And that was before the most recent four days of bargaining. By any reasonable measure—that’s progress.
There is absolutely nothing on the table that historically would have been reason for a strike. We have not as a board tried to ‘strip’ local agreements or negatively impacted working and learning conditions. We have too much respect for our dedicated Peel secondary teachers to do that. But apparently, the facts don’t matter. So, provincial OSSTF continues with their strategy of pressuring the province by disrupting the school year for our students. By doing so, they demonstrate a profound lack of respect for our students, our families, our secondary teachers, and the negotiation process.
“We also hear that our Peel teachers have been told that this is somehow about ‘working conditions.’ I want to be 100 per cent transparent about this. We are not negotiating class size, salary, benefits or prep time at the local table. If that’s what teachers have been told, it’s absolutely untrue. In fact, we presented no board ‘strips’ nor changes to working conditions. That is the truth.
“At this point, we have been besieged with parent and student concerns about final marks, end-of-year plays and athletics, commencements, proms and so much more. The same is true, I am sure, in Durham and Rainbow. We are also seeing some in our community begin to severely criticize our local teachers for their actions. That is unfair—and we have said so. This is not a local decision—it’s a provincial take-over—disguised as local action. What provincial OSSTF is doing is clearly not in the best interest of students, families or their own local members.
“We ask provincial OSSTF to lift the strike order that will put 42,000 Peel board secondary students out of school at a critical time in the year—and without purpose. We don’t need to be pressured back to the table. We don’t need to be encouraged to negotiate, or to be serious. We’re already there. Please act. Do what is best for our students, our families and our Peel secondary teachers.”
OSSTF labour updates, including a parent/student FAQ, will be posted regularly to www.peelschools.org/aboutus/labour/OSSTFlabour.
Media contact: Janet McDougald, Chair of the Board, [email protected], 905-278-1402
Reference: Brian Woodland, Director of Communications & Community Relations Support Services, [email protected], 905-890-1010 ext. 2812