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To-day Friday July 6th we heard the breaking news that the Catholic Teacherís union has reached an agreement with the Ontario Government. There are new conditions that the union has agreed to: salary freeze for the next two years, three unpaid professional days, 10 sick days per year instead of twenty, elimination of banked sick days upon retirement, salary increases for teachers because of earning Additional Qualifications.

As a long term member of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Association I have some views that I hope to share with you.

With a $15 billion deficit the government has to look to the public service to try and save money. Teachers contracts are with the local boards of education but the funding/salaries comes from the provincial governments on a per diem rate per student.

Over the past few years teachers have done well maxing out their category four salaries after ten years at $90,000 plus per year. The teachers have Christmas/Easter/Civic and two months off for the summer vacation. Usually high school teachers teach 3/5 classes a day of 70 minutes each along with time off for lunch Their work doesnít end when the school bell rings at 2.45: there are lesson preps/ marking and coaching duties that can take many hours of the day. When you look at the hourly wage compared to other professions the teachers are not gouging the public. You do not go into teaching for the money; rather you teach because you enjoy children.

Reducing the number of sick days will not have an effect on most teachers: historically the majority of teachers have excellent attendance coming to school when they are not well. Perhaps now some teachers will show their displeasure at the new legislation by taking the allotted time.

Eliminating the banking of sick days upon retirement on the surface is supposed to save the province money. If you factor in the cost of sick days and paying substitute teachers the one time gratuity payments may have been a bargain.

Three professional development days a year will not be paid for by the province. It has been my experience that unless the programing is excellent that many teachers will find better things to do in the afternoon then sit in an auditorium listening to boring speeches about redundant pedagogic dogma.

The federations have called for a strike vote on August 27th to test the resolve of their teachers. My bet that the teachers will vote to strike. After a few weeks in September the province will legislate them back to work and the teacher will then work to rule.

Who wins and loses? Teachers have traditionally very poor public relations never focusing on the positive contributions that they make to their students. Athletic teams are coached by their classroom teachers with no remuneration and receive little or no credit from the media/society for the countless hours that they spend with their students.

My bet is that the media will stand with the government legislation to describe the teachers as fat spoiled cats.

The students in the Thames Valley Elementary/Secondary schools will suffer if there is a strike or work to rule by their disgruntled teachers. No coaching or extra-curricular activities such as school shows or year book.
Parents do not want interruptions to their childrenís education and will walk with their feet to the Catholic/Christian/private schools that have guarantees of continuity of services and harmony for the students.

It my sincere hope that the Ontario Legislature and the teacher federations will sit down and talk over the rest of the summer months to ensure that our students can return to their classrooms in September.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com