Ontario secondary school teachers could threaten volunteer work

If wage freeze is imposed, members could refuse extracurriculars

As Ontario students head back to class, teachers are battling it out with the province over a proposed wage freeze.

Bill 115 has demanded teachers accept new terms, which include a wage freeze, a cut to benefits and ending the practice of banking unused sick days.

Three unions representing 45,000 teachers and school faculty have accepted a two-year framework agreement with the government, and the province is trying to impose the same terms on three other unions, representing 191,000 workers.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario (CUPE) rallied at Queen’s Park on Aug. 28 to protest the legislation.

Ken Coran, president of OSSTF, says if the wage freeze is imposed, teachers could refuse volunteer work, including things such as “drama clubs, student council, all sorts of clubs and I think the highest profile one would be the extracurricular sports,” Coran told the CBC. “People are upset. They want to challenge this legislation.”

He added that the unions are encouraging members to continue running extracurriculars, but it would ultimately be up to individual teachers to decide whether or not they will.

Doug Jolliffe, president of district 12 of the OSSTF, told the Toronto Star it’s far more effective for teachers to stop helping principals in order to put pressure on the board.

“I’d rather do a walkout than cut extracurriculars, to be honest,” he said. “It’s a key part of the school day; the volunteer nature of it is important — you get teachers doing it because they want to do it.”

The province’s Putting Students First Act is expected to pass this week.

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