Teacher union votes to end extracurricular protest

Ken Coran of the OSSTF/FEESO's

Credits: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency


TORONTO - Ontario public high school students could soon get their extracurricular activities back after the union representing their teachers voted to "suspend their political action."

Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), said in a statement that a provincial council comprised of more than 150 local union leaders from across Ontario came to the decision Friday that teacher voluntary activities could return to the schools.

"We expect that this sign of good will from our members will prompt the government to have genuine discussions that can lead to a fair resolution to this current impasse," Coran said in a statement. "We still maintain that voluntary activities are just that: voluntary.

"We encourage members to review recent information and decide if they are willing to return to participating in the activities we know they feel so passionately about," he said.

Sam Hammond, the president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), whose members have also largely withdrawn from voluntary school activities, said his union will review its position on extracurriculars by next Friday.

Premier Kathleen Wynne welcomed the policy change at OSSTF as evidence that her government is rebuilding a more respectful relationship with teachers after a fractious battle over Bill 115 and imposed contracts.

Wynne said she offered no financial incentives to the unions to bring back extracurriculars, but opened up a discussion about how the future collective bargaining process can improve.

"The arrangements that have been reached do not add any money into the contracts, into the framework, and I'm so sure, I've got such confidence in our teachers and support staff that they will take up the activities that they have delivered voluntarily for so many years," Wynne said, although she acknowledged that some teachers may decide not to participate.

Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod said Wynne's celebration may prove premature.

"What concessions were actually made?" she said. "Is it getting rid of EQAO, scaling back the (testing) standard? Is it a future process in collective bargaining that is actually going to favour unions for more handsome payouts?"
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said the return of extracurriculars is a positive development, but only a small step in bringing things back to normal in Ontario schools.

"Teachers may or may not come back and do extracurriculars," Tabuns said. "There is not certainty for students and for families."

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