Not all teachers will return to extracurriculars, union head says
Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 25, 2013 10:44AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 25, 2013 6:28PM EST
TORONTO -- A majority of public high school teachers may not return to extracurricular activities even though their union is encouraging them to do so, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation said Monday.
About 60 per cent of their 60,000 members are waiting to see "concrete results" from the governing Liberals, said union president Ken Coran. Some may never resume extracurriculars.
The union said it agreed Friday to "suspend political action" -- code for its withdrawal of extracurriculars -- after Premier Kathleen Wynne signalled a real willingness to change the bargaining process.
"Now does that mean everyone will do that?" Coran said. "I want to make it very clear that is not likely to be the case."
Many teachers are still angry that contracts were forced on them in January and feel their democratic rights have been violated, he said.
"Some people are just so upset with how this whole scenario started and played out that they may never come back," Coran said.
But Wynne said that's the "glass half empty" view.
"I'm looking at the glass half full," she said Monday.
"I really think the vast majority of teachers and support staff in the province who have been engaged in extracurricular activities want to be engaged in those activities."
Wynne said that she didn't make any concessions to convince OSSTF to end its protest, but simply agreed to work with teachers and school boards on a new collective bargaining process.
But the Progressive Conservatives say they don't believe her, and that a secret deal must have been made with the union.
Wynne is naive if she thinks that a promised new bargaining process -- that no one knows anything about -- will sway the union to resume extracurricular activities, said education critic Lisa MacLeod.
"I think that there must have been a secret deal behind closed doors," she said. "We don't know what happened in those negotiations."
Wynne denied there was any secret deal.
"Bad process got us into this situation, good process will get us out of this situation," she said.
The bottom line is the Liberals picked a fight with the teachers, leaving students and parents to suffer the consequences, said the New Democrats.
"If you cause a conflict in the schools, you cause damage," said NDP education critic Peter Tabuns.
"The Liberal government approach, which caused this conflict, caused this damage, is going to have an aftermath. There's no getting around it."
Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, said she has hope that the majority of teachers will see that progress is being made and go back to voluntary activities like supervising sport teams and clubs.
"We know from talking to teachers that most teachers love doing extracurricular activities, they do them because they're passionate about them," she said.
"And I think everybody wants to get schools back to normal."
Coran said there's a concern that a large number of parents are selecting Catholic high schools for Grade 8 students so they'll have access to extracurriculars.
"Have we noticed that the number of students selecting public schools has dropped?" he said. "Absolutely we have."
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario haven't said whether they'll resume voluntary activities, but the union is expected to make a decision at the end of the week.