Nearly a month after district high school teachers began job action to back contract demands, no progress has been made to end the dispute nor have classes been disrupted.
In fact, it’s basically been business as usual for teachers, students, and the public school board.
“Nothing has happened yet,” said Brian Church, president of the bargaining unit for the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation 5B. “We’re still at a standstill.”
He said things have been in limbo lately because of the March Break, but added a new round of contract talks tentatively have been scheduled.
“Right now we’re confirming some dates with the OSSTF,” said Warren Hoshizaki, director of education for the Rainy River District School Board, noting the tentative dates were in early April.
“We’re finding a date that works,” confirmed Church. “We’re definitely going to talk again.”
Talks between the teachers and school board collapsed Feb. 20. Teachers were in a legal strike position as of Feb. 21—and have been in phase one of job action since Feb. 24.
This means teachers are making themselves available to students, parents, and administration during regular school hours only—though teachers can and have been carrying on with extra-curricular activities.
“I don’t believe action will be stepped up until we meet again,” said Church.
Across Ontario, there are roughly two dozen school boards facing a similar situation. Both the board and teachers are watching the provincial situation closely since the outcome of agreements with other boards can affect negotiations here.
“There have been a couple more deals around the province,” said Hoshizaki, noting this can make a significant impact on local negotiations. “It does from a negotiations point of view.”
But he added though the provincial perspective is important, the board’s relationship with its teachers is very important.
“Our interest is to negotiate locally with the [district] teachers and have a fair deal,” he stressed. “That’s why we’re meeting so close to the last talks.
“We’re very hopeful,” Hoshizaki added.