Despite progress reportedly being made over the summer, the current labour dispute between the Rainy River District School Board and the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation threatens to carry into the new school year.
In fact, with the teachers having opted to withdraw from providing extra-curricular activities as of Aug. 2, the implications already are being felt. At least one former Muskie boys’ hockey player cited the ongoing dispute as a reason for leaving the black-and-gold to play for the Kenora Thistles of the Manitoba Midget ‘AAA’ Hockey League this coming season.
How other Muskie teams will be affected remains to be seen. Also unclear at this point is whether the dispute, if it continues to drag on, will impact the OFSAA boys’ hockey tournament Fort Frances is scheduled to host this March.
And that’s not to mention the countless other extra-curricular activities Fort High students enjoy each year—from drama and musical productions to band, clubs, and field trips.
Yes, the union has suspended the one-day weekly strikes high school teachers staged from late April through to June. But the threat to reinstate them, or to opt for a full walk-out to back their contract demands, still hangs over the students’ heads—which is particularly worrisome to those going into Grade 12 and wondering how all this may throw a wrench into their post-secondary plans.
With 16 months of negotiations failing to reach a deal, and the new school year less than two weeks away, the time has come for both sides to set aside all the rhetoric, posturing, and public relations ploys and finally settle this dispute.
It’s time to put the students first, and ensure they are able to learn and enjoy high school life without being shrouded under a constant cloud of uncertainly.
Anything less is unacceptable.