Union denies threatening members who don't follow strike protocol
Published Tuesday, December 4, 2012 12:50PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 4, 2012 1:47PM EST
A union strike protocol bulletin circulated to elementary school teachers in the Upper Grand district is raising eyebrows for its suggestion members who opt out could be fined for their inaction.
According to the "Provincial Takeover Bulletin" -- distributed by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario to the Upper Grand teachers local last week -- any members who do not participate may be subject to a number of disciplinary measures. Upper Grand is comprised on school districts in and around Guelph.
The bulletin reminds members of the typical procedure for handling violations of their professional code of conduct, which includes among its obligations a commitment to supporting all collective bargaining initiatives.
Those who don't, it warns, could be subject to discipline determined by the union executive, based on the advice of a discipline committee.
"Members deemed to be in non-support during a job action may be subject to disciplinary procedures that include the possibility of a monetary fine of up to $500 per day," the document states.
After PC education critic Lisa MacLeod was sent the document, she said Monday that the prospect of naming and shaming members who don't toe the line was "unbelievable."
"It's unbelievable to me that in this day and age, this union could have so much power over its members that it can put the fear of God into them on whether or not they can help a child at a school," MacLeod told the QMI Agency.
When asked about the possibility of his union fining its own members, ETFO President Sam Hammond said the warning was not intended as a threat.
"It's a matter of being very clear and up front and transparent with people about the process that unfolds based on their collective strike votes, the direction that our members wanted to take earlier in the fall and are now implementing," Hammond told CTV Toronto on Tuesday.
Last week, the ETFO warned elementary school students and their parents that it would give them 72 hours’ notice before teachers and support staff begin rotating one-day walkouts this month.
On Monday, Education Minister Laurel Broten implored the unions to abandon their job action, for the students' sake.
"If you want a fight instead of a fix, then take your fight to the courts, but keep the kids out of it," Broten said.
"To the union leaders, I am asking you to call off your strike plans and keep kids in school."
The union is locked in a battle with the provincial government over Bill 115, a law passed in September that grants Queen's Park authority to impose collective agreements and ban strikes.
The unions have until Dec. 31 to negotiate agreements with local school boards.