By John Stewart
Special to Focus
Peel’s high school teachers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike — even though they know it’s illegal for them to walk off the job.
The District 19 unit of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which represents teachers who work for the Peel District School Board, voted 94.2 per cent in favour of a strike last week. Occasional, or supply, teachers, voted 91.4 per cent in favour of strike action.
The unions proceeded with the strike vote even though the Ontario’s new Bill 115 freezes teachers’ wages for two years and prevents them from striking.
“This vote is not about wanting a strike,” said Paul Elliott, vice-president of OSSTF. “It is about using our rights recognized by law to bargain a collective agreement with the employer.”
Teachers are angry that the collective bargaining process has been derailed by the new law.
In a joint statement, District 19 union president Desiree Francis and Terry Murphy, president of the occasional teachers’ union, said: “This extraordinary and unprecedented strike vote is proof of our resolve. Our teachers in Peel are united and ready to face the next step whether it comes from the government or the Peel District School Board.”
Local school boards have been asked to negotiate new collective agreements with the teachers.
That has put trustees in the unenviable position of bargaining for a new deal when wage and working conditions for teachers have already been pre-set by the government.
Janet McDougald, the long-time chair of the Peel District Board, told The Globe and Mail that “the government got themselves into this and now we’re having to deal with it.”
Meanwhile, students continue to express their frustrations with the impasse that has caused many teachers to opt out of traditional voluntary duties such as coaching sports teams or running school clubs.
Students at Green Glade Public School in Clarkson were the latest to walk out of class yesterday to protest the loss of the extracurricular programs.
Last Friday, students at Mississauga, Erindale and Lincoln Alexander secondary schools all staged similar protests.
By John Stewart