Paul Caccamo, president of the OSSTF's District 6A bargaining unit, says his members are ready to stand up and fight the province after their contract was imposed upon them earlier this month.
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THUNDER BAY -- Lakehead Public Schools’ director of education says the board remains in a state of flux as they await a decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Cathi Siemieniuk earlier on Thursday said it was too late to reverse the decision to close their elementary schools on Friday, reacting to the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario’s decision to stage a one-day walkout on Friday.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty subsequently filed an OLRB appeal, deeming the job action an illegal strike. The OLRB is expected to make a ruling on Thursday night.
However, after receiving new information, Siemieniuk said the ruling could force them to open schools, despite having already informed parents they would be closed.
High school teachers in the public system have promised to walk off the job on Wednesday, both strikes in reaction to Education Minister Laurel Broten’s decision to impose contract terms on union members under the controversial Bill 115.
The bill removed teachers’ right to bargain collectively and the ensuing contract halved the number of sick days from 20 to 10 and effectively froze wages for two years.
No decision has been made yet on what the board will do next Wednesday.
It’s too soon to make a call just yet, Siemieniuk said.
“I know they are also looking at the results of the OLRB ruling today, so we have not made any formal plans yet for what will happen on Wednesday,” she said.
“It’s a bit more complex in our system because OSSTF not only organizes our teachers, they also organize our assistants and our early childhood educators. So it will have a system-wide impact.”
As for sanctions, which could be as high as a $2,000 fine per teacher, Siemieniuk said the matter is out of her hands. Teachers who walk off the job will also miss a day of pay.
“The OLRB will make the decision whether or not this is an illegal strike and from there they’ll make that decision,” she said.
Paul Caccamo, the president of the teachers’ union bargaining unit, district 6A, said a meeting with other union officials in Toronto on Wednesday has solidified their stance that the fight isn’t over and members need to stand united against Broten’s actions.
Caccamo said it’s ironic McGuinty is taking the stance he has, given his support 16 years ago.
“What we’re doing is very similar to what we did in 1997, when the Progressive Conservatives were in charge and were trying to take similar aggressive actions toward us,” Caccamo said. “I should remind people that at that time Dalton McGuinty was very supportive of what we were doing, even offering to walk the lines with us.
“I would hope he would be very supportive us … None of this should come as a surprise to him. He stripped us of our rights and we’re willing to fight.”
Caccamo said possible sanctions, either against individual teachers or the union itself, which could face a $25,000 fine, are a concern.
“Of course, we’re examining that on a daily basis,” he said, adding it’s ironic Broten is taking that route.
“She had no interest in following it herself when she passed Bill 115.”
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan), said earlier on Thursday he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens in Toronto today and perhaps when we wake up in the morning it will have been avoided.”
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