By Richard Leitner, News Staff
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is cancelling all extracurricular activities for students beginning Monday, preempting a plan by teachers to withdraw from the activities as part of a protest against Bill 115.
Board chair Tim Simmons said the system-wide move comes as some elementary teachers had already stopped volunteer activities as part of efforts to get the province to kill the legislation.
The cancellation affects sports, field trips, after-school clubs and any other extracurricular activities at both the elementary and secondary level.
“We’re disappointed that things have gone this far, but we understand the position our (teacher) locals are in with the provincial government,” Simmons said.
“It comes down to Bill 115 being an impediment to reaching local deals.”
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is planning one-day strikes to protest Bill 115 and has promised to give affected boards 72 hours’ notice. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation has said it doesn’t plan to follow suit at this point.
Both Hamilton locals are already in a legal strike position.
“We’re waiting to see,” Simmons said of future developments.
“Our hope as a board is that we have notice and our expectation is that we have notice (of any walkout), so that we can communicate to our parents and communities in time so that other arrangements can be made if need be.”
Simmons joined other trustees on Dec. 3 in voting to urge the province to review or repeal Bill 115, which sets out a framework for contract settlements accepted by Catholic teachers.
The framework includes a two-year wage freeze, an end to retirement payouts of up to six months of unused sick days and a cut in annual sick days to 10 from 20.
Bill 115 bans strike action for two years, but this prohibition only kicks in after a Dec. 31 deadline for teachers to reach a deal before one is imposed on them.
But the legislation also gives Education Minister Laurel Broten the power to stop any dispute before then. She has said she won’t intervene in the one-day strikes but will act if walkouts continue beyond that.
Chantal Mancini, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation of Hamilton-Wentworth, said the key issue in the dispute is the province’s interference with collective bargaining rights.
Her members rejected a tentative agreement with the Hamilton board reached on Nov. 18, one both sides said met the requirements of Bill 115.
“They’ve taken away us being able to sit down and have free collective bargaining with our local employer,” Mancini said.
“The issue is not the wage freeze. The issue is the stripping of our democratic rights. That is why people are so upset. That needs to be clearly and specifically stated.”