Top 10 of 2012, #7: Bill 115 and teacher troubles
Published Monday, December 24, 2012 12:49PM EST
From now until Dec. 31, CTV Kitchener is counting down the top 10 local stories of 2012. Catch the countdown each night on CTV News at Six.
The ongoing battle between teachers and the provincial government comes in as number seven on CTV Kitchener’s top 10 stories of 2012.
In September, the provincial Liberals and Progressive Conservatives passed Bill 115, officially known as the Putting Students First Act.
The bill allows the province to set the terms of contract negotiations between teachers’ unions and local schools boards, and to force new contracts on teachers if deals are not reached by Dec. 31.
The NDP opposed the bill at Queen’s Park, while outside of government chambers, teachers’ unions voiced their opposition to the legislation, saying it violates collective bargaining rights.
“Our democracy has been challenged,” said Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation president Ken Coran.
“The bill was framed as a wage restraint bill, but in fact when you look at the bill and analyze it, it’s far-reaching.”
Among the major issues standing between the two sides at the bargaining table are a wage freeze, cuts to teachers’ benefits like bankable sick days, and giving the government the power to stop strikes.
Teachers spent much of the fall withdrawing from extracurricular activities and taking other job action, culminating in a series of one-day strikes across the province in mid-December.
“We feel the need to do something, and this is the only thing we’re left with,” said Nancy Hutcheson, vice-president of the Waterloo Region chapter of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.
But the job action didn’t sit well with students, who said as far as they were concerned, the Putting Students First Act did anything but.
“We haven’t really seen that in any situation. All of this has been taken away from us without any of our say,” said Guelph student Ethan Bersche.
Many students took action of their own, with protests and walkouts organized at schools across the province. Others, like Katelyn Wangler of Tavistock, wrote a letter directly to the premier.
Education Minister Laurel Broten said she had no issue with one-day strikes with 72 hours notice, but would take action under Bill 115 if further action took place.
“If additional strike days are threatened, then we will act to force a strike to stop,” she said.
The clash between teachers and the province is expected to continue well into 2013. The ETFO has said the province not imposing new contracts would be enough to put a halt to strike action, but teachers also plan to fight Bill 150 all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.