On Friday, September 2, 2005 Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Chair, Sheila Ward commented in her welcome back to school press release that, â€œThis year marks the beginning of several years of labour stability for students, staff and parents. Everyone in the TDSB is feeling a renewed sense of optimism about public education.â€
However, there are still three bargaining units â€“ secondary occasional teachers, elementary occasional teachers and professional support staff â€“ without settled contracts at the TDSB. The OSSTF Professional Student Services Personnel (PSSP) of Toronto represents over 500 front line staff that work directly with some of the neediest and most at-risk students in the public schools of Toronto. They have been in on-going negotiations with the board. It has been over 374 days since their contract expired and they have been participating in a legal job action campaign since May 4, 2005.
In response to Wardâ€™s comments, the PSSP bargaining unit president Ken Jeffers said, â€œClearly this ignores the protracted negotiations of our professional support staff to settle a fair collective agreement. Yesterday the board flatly rejected all of the union positions tabled in June. The claim of labour stability and unanimous optimism is both misleading to the general public and suggests a serious underestimation of the value of our services. Perhaps this is a minor oversight and the TDSB Chair just needs a gentle reminder from those parents, staff and trustees who are more familiar with the work and commitment of PSSP members and their ongoing labour struggle.â€
Jeffers added, â€œTo foster a more positive work environment and labour peace at the TDSB, the board must recognize that the PSSP workers are an integral part of the full service school model that provides the best access and support for ensuring the success of all students.â€
Sheila Vandenberk, OSSTF Treasurer and Chair of the negotiations team stated, â€œThis bargaining unit has no other option than stepping up the sanctions now in place in order to call greater attention to these membersâ€™ issues.â€