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OSSTF votes to resume extracurriculars

Premier Kathleen Wynne (right) with Education Minister Liz Sandals react to the resturn of extra-curricular activities in Ontario public high schools, Friday February 22, 2013.

QUEENS PARK, Ont. – The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has voted to recommend that teachers resume extracurricular activities at the province’s public high schools.

“It’s a very good day for young people in the province,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said, along with education minister Liz Sandals at a news conference at Queens Park just after 6 p.m., Friday.

Sports teams, clubs and other extracurricular activities were stopped in response to an ongoing labour dispute with the government over Bill 115.

The province has called the talks an attempt to rebuild trust with teachers.

It has not been revealed what – if anything – the province promised in order to get the support of the OSSTF, but Wynne did not say, only promising it is not going to cost anything, and adding that it’s a better way to bargain.

“The issues that are on the table, the issues that have been discussed are not issues that require new money,” she said. “It’s about how do we make sure that we continue to work together going forward – How do we create a new collective bargaining process going forward, because obviously this one didn’t work well enough.”

“Everyone knows that we went into this conversation saying that there was no new money, and there is no new money.”

In a release, Ken Coran, head of the OSSTF is hoping this act of goodwill is enough to build traction in talks with the province.

He says he hopes asking teachers to resume supervision of extracurriculars will prompt what he calls genuine discussions that can lead to a fair resolution to this current impasse.

Meanwhile, Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod has expressed worries about the sudden move, saying she is concerned the province is bending on education standards and that a major concession was made.

“Is it getting rid of EQAO or scaling back the standards in our schools?,” she questioned while addressing the media following Wynne’s conference. “Is it a future process a collective bargaining that is actually going to favour unions for more payouts?”

“The Premier did not indicate whether or not the EQAO was on the chopping block, and I can tell you as a parent, I want to make sure that there are standards in the school,” she said.

While the OSSTF continues to stress that extracurriculars are still 100 per cent voluntary, the union is calling on members to go back to supervising activities as soon as possible.

However, some teachers do not support the union recommendation, and have taken to Twitter, promising to continue their boycott. However, the Premier is not worried.

“Teachers and support staff love to take part in extracurriculars. They’ve done it voluntarily for years,” she said. “They get a lot out of those activities as well as the students.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne has released the following statement:

“I’m happy to hear the results of today’s vote by OSSTF members, and I’m so glad that teachers, support staff and students across the province will once again enjoy the extracurricular activities and programs that mean so much to them.

For the past few weeks, my team and I have been meeting with our partners in the public sector and engaging in positive, frank and collaborative discussions about our shared priorities.

Our government has immense respect for the educators of this province and we recognize the important role they play in our children’s lives and in communities across Ontario.

Today’s news is a great indication of the hard work all parties are putting into the repair of this valued relationship.  It shows our willingness to work together, to listen to one another’s concerns, and to find common ground on which we can rebuild a foundation of trust and create an effective process going forward.

I’ve been clear that this issue needs to be addressed within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework. But I am confident that our government’s commitment to fairness, consistency and respect in our conversations with OSSTF and all our partners will continue to result in real work being done for the people of Ontario.”