News

LABOUR DISPUTE

Public elementary school teachers will not participate in sports and clubs, union announces

Kate Dubinski

By Kate Dubinski, The London Free Press

(Postmedia Network file photo)

(Postmedia Network file photo)

Parents, you’ve been here before.

The province’s public elementary teachers will no longer take part in choirs, bands, clubs and sports as of Wednesday, an escalation of a work-to-rule campaign aimed at compelling the province and school boards back to the bargaining table, the teachers’ union announced Thursday.

“Teachers will continue to do everything around instruction. The normal day-to-day things we do to support students we will continue to do,” said Craig Smith, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) local that represents more than 3,200 teachers with the Thames Valley District school board.

“We are there doing our job — we are instructing, preparing, supervising. It’s important to do what we’re there to do, teach and support student learning,” Smith said.

What teachers won’t do are so-called extracurriculars, everything from coaching to helping with clubs.

“I think no matter if you’re a parent or a student or an administrator, many of us are to the point of frustration and disappointment,” said Jeff Pratt, the Thames Valley board’s associate director.

“We want this to be over. We want to get back to what we do, which is educating our students in a work environment without labour interruption. Certainly, ETFO’s actions will heighten the frustration.”

The province has made labour deals with Ontario’s high school teachers and Catholic elementary and high school teachers.

There have been no settlements with ETFO and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) that represents secretaries, librarians, custodians, educational assistants and early childhood educators at Thames Valley and London District Catholic schools.

CUPE employees are in the throes of a work-to-rule campaign that has included custodians not performing many duties they usually would — leaving some schools filthy.

In Sarnia, that’s led to the school board saying it might shut down some schools for safety reasons.

At the Thames Valley board, parents and students have been complaining about the state of some schools, Pratt said.

“We’ve been getting phone calls expressing concerns about cleanliness,” he said. “Some of our schools are getting very dirty. As always, student safety is paramount, and CUPE will address anything that’s a health and safety issue.”

That means clearing gravel or liquid on stairs and clearing wet leaves, “but the day-to-day dirt continues to pile up,” Pratt said.

“I’m not even sure why it’s being called a work-to-rule campaign. This is not work-to-rule. This is strike sanctions, it’s a partial withdrawal of services. Services that are part of their job are not being completed.”

The CUPE members are prepared for escalating job action — rotating strikes — but there are two bargaining dates next week so nothing will happen until the union sees how those go, said Heather Skolly, the president of CUPE Local 7575 that represents educational assistants.

“Our members are ready but this is difficult for them. It’s not in their nature to say ‘No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that.’ It’s not in their nature to refuse work,” Skolly said.

“We have more of a nurturing nature because of the students we provide care to on a daily basis. The students are still in our care and it’s the other things that we are withdrawing to put pressure on the government.”

Elementary teachers are focused on pupils during the instructional day, Smith said.

“The bulk of our time will be spent on deliberate instruction of the curriculum. I think that’s the important piece for parents to take away. We’re doing our jobs. Our duties are focused on instruction and learning and this is a good thing. They can get to the core of what students need,” he said.

“There’s a lot of stuff that clutters a teacher’s day that has nothing to do with students but with ministry initiatives and government agendas that has more to do with managing our time than with teaching students.

Kate.dubinski@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/KateatLFPress

What’s going on:

  • Thames Valley District elementary school teachers: Starting Wednesday, no longer oversee clubs, sports or bands outside of the school day.
  • Custodians, secretaries, librarians, educational assistants: May begin rotating strikes at all schools if bargaining doesn’t go well next week.