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Teachers’ dispute still at impasse

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With still no deal between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation District 5B and the Rainy River District School Board, teachers have decided to opt out of extra-curricular activities.

“Everything stays in place as it was last year which, for other than the days we weren’t working, were seamless for the students,” local OSSTF president Kent Kowalski said yesterday.

“And the teachers won’t be providing any extra-curricular.”

Kowalski said OSSTF notified the board at the end of the school year that extra-curriculars would be withdrawn as of Aug. 2 if no deal was reached.

“We put that out there ahead so anything that might start prior to the school year . . . to give ample lead-up so there are no surprises,” he remarked.

He added that doesn’t necessarily mean extra-curricular activities won’t be running; they just won’t be lead by OSSTF members.

The one-day weekly strikes by teachers from April through June have been suspended. But if the two sides remain at an impasse, the union could reinstate them.

“It leaves us only two places to go when we up our sanctions next,” Kowalski noted.

“Back to rotational strikes or a full walk-out.”

Meanwhile, the school board has requested the union take the board’s final offer to its membership for a vote before the new school year begins Aug. 30.

“While the parties have reached agreement on a majority of issues, key issues still remain outstanding,” the board noted in a press release yesterday.

“The union is proposing that teachers declared redundant shall be placed in vacant temporary positions until permanent positions become available,” it said.

“While the board has agreed to such access in principle, the OSSTF continues to insist that re-timetabling of schools must occur where necessary to allow such placements.”

The board also noted “the union is also proposing that all disciplinary sanctions, however serious, will be removed from the teacher’s record after two years, except for disciplinary suspensions of more than four days concerning a limited number of matters.”

“The Board is willing to accept a clause but strongly believes that issues related to harassment or violence, and matters related to physical, emotional, or psychological harm to students or employees of the Board, should remain on file in case such incidents arise again,” it stated.

“The Board believes its offer to the union is fair for our teachers.”

Kowalski said the two issues already have been agreed upon by the two parties.

He added the issue outstanding remains with the settlement process.

“We were really close to a settlement in early August,” Kowalski noted. “But the latest proposal, in the Minutes of Settlement, seeks to limit the next round of negotiations.

“Not only does it give a time period in which that part expires, it also says in future negotiations, this is all you can do—you can’t bring this back,” he stressed, adding the expiration date proposed on the agreement is August, 2017.

But the board is hoping that putting its offer to a membership a vote will resolve the issues.

“The board has every right to ask the labour board to conduct such a vote,” Kowalski conceded.

“But asking us to take this forward to our members on their behalf, when it was rejected by the bargaining table, is simply an attempt to discredit the local leaders and local bargaining,” he argued.

“We represent the members,” Kowalski stressed. “We do it in the best interest of the members so this is just set to undermine us.”

The school board and OSSTF have been engaged in collective bargaining for the last 16 months.

“The Board has made many proposals to address each of the union’s concerns,” the board noted in its release, adding the only demands now under discussion are union ones.

“The Board believes that our students and their families are best served when there is stability in the classroom, as opposed to cancelled extra-curricular activities and threats of further job action,” it stated.

“As the school year approaches, our students and their families are best served by a Board and teachers who have a collective agreement in place.”

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