End The Silence → Stop The Violence is the slogan that the Violence in the Workplace Task Force has adopted in its continued work to ensure that OSSTF/FEESO members have safe and healthy workplaces. As we learned from Phase 1 of our interviews with front-line members—we will not stop the violence until all members recognize that getting injured is not part of the job, and that there is an important connection between reporting and resolution.
Phase 2 interviews of members in their Districts is continuing with a goal of completing the interviews by mid-June. All of the data will be compiled and a comprehensive report will be presented to local leaders attending the Leadership Training Conference in August 2017. At that time, initiatives that members can participate in, planned for the fall, will also be outlined.
A significant positive outcome of the dogged work that has been done to keep members safe at work came when Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn attended the June 2 meeting of Provincial Council. The ministers made a significant announcement with four key components:
- An enhanced enforcement initiative will begin this fall, specifically targeting workplace violence in schools. Every single school board in the province will be visited by a manager, regional program coordinator and by an inspector from the Ministry of Labour. In total, more than 70 district school boards across the province will receive a visit in 2017–2018 from ministry officials.
- With input from the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety, which was established through the central bargaining process, the Ministry of Labour will be creating education sector specific guidance documents which will have the same authority as those produced by a Section 21 Committee under the Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The guidance material will be completed and published during the 2017–2018 school year. Ministry of Labour enforcement teams will be visiting every school board in the province to review the boards’ obligations under the OHSA.
- Keeping in mind that highly sensitive and privileged information may be contained in a student’s Ontario Student Record (OSR), the government is committed to ensuring that all education workers have access to the information they need to protect themselves and maintain a safe and inclusive classroom for students and other staff. Next steps will be predicated on advice from the Working Group, whose experience and expertise will inform next steps to expand access to information by the spring of 2018.
- A full review of reporting requirements for violent incidents will be undertaken, with the goal of creating a simple, standardized reporting process that is accessible online, and will facilitate the collection of accurate data with implementation in the spring of 2018.
This announcement comes just two months after more than 120 OSSTF/FEESO members from across the province converged on Queen’s Park to meet with MPPs, including cabinet ministers and opposition leaders, to lobby for precisely this kind of action.
In his remarks to Provincial Council, Minister Flynn said, “I want to let you to know that you have my personal commitment to this…Instead of having a long drawn-out process, we can do something very quickly, so I am going to attend as many of the Working Group meetings as possible, and personally work with you on this…. Let us find out what it takes to move to the next level when it comes to addressing violence in our schools.”
OSSTF/FEESO will be holding Minister Flynn to his commitments. We will be closely monitoring the development of the resource guide and the review of the reporting process to ensure that, for OSSTF/FEESO members and all education workers in Ontario, violence in the workplace is finally being addressed.