Ontario teachers who have resumed extracurriculars say they are being shunned, pressured to stop

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Cracks are appearing in the campaign by Ontario teachers to protest the contract imposed on them by the provincial government.

The Globe and Mail reports some teachers want to resume participating in student extracurricular activities such as coaching sports or supervising clubs, defying the ban recommended by their unions.

The dissidents, who say continuing the boycott only hurts the students, claim their opposition has resulted in threats to shun them and report them to their unions.

The minority Liberal government of lame-duck Premier Dalton McGuinty imposed a collective agreement on its public school teachers earlier this month amid a stalemate in contract negotiations and increasing work-to-rule actions from teachers in the previous months.

While the legislated contract kept teachers in the classroom, Education Minister Laurel Broten said the government had no way of forcing them to once again supervise after-class activities.

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“I hope that we will see a re-engagement of extracurricular activities,” Broten told CBC News in early January.

But many teachers are torn between wanting to protest the government's unilateral action and returning to a part of their job that they love, the Globe said.

Greg Pietersma, chairman of eastern Ontario’s Upper Canada District School Board, told the Globe a union steward indicated to one of his high school principals that the union was encouraging teachers to “shun” colleagues who engaged in voluntary activities.

In another incident, he said two teachers who had planned an overnight excursion with their class were approached bailed out of the trip after hearing from their union. Pietersma said it went ahead because there were enough parent volunteers to supervise.

“This doesn’t sound to me like it’s calming down," Pietersma said. "This sounds like ramping up to me."

A high school teacher who works with at-risk students talked about getting literature from colleagues about the need to continue the boycott after resuming extracurricular activities.

“Really, I thought, what political statement am I making? And my answer is none," the teacher told the Globe. "I’m just punishing people [the students] who really don’t deserve to be punished."

But a union leader said the boycott is one of the few avenues left open to teachers to protest the imposed contract

“They’re still extremely displeased with the way the government has handled this, and they want a visible way to show their displeasure,” said Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation president Ken Coran.

Withdrawing from extracurricular activities is often used as a weapon in bargaining. The B.C. Teachers Federation, which has had a long dysfunctional relationship with the provincial government, ordered a boycott in after-class work such as field trips and report cards as part of its response in the most recent contract round.

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The B.C. government responded last spring with legislation that banned barred further walkouts and work-to-rule tactics. Teachers grudgingly accepted a new contract last June.

But both sides, weary of the regular confrontations, have apparently worked out a new approach to bargaining they hope will produce better results when the next bargaining round begins in February, the Vancouver Sun reported.