Teachers upset over province's plan to impose contracts
Published Thursday, January 3, 2013 10:30AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 3, 2013 6:30PM EST
Union leaders are blasting the provincial government over Thursday’s announcement that Bill 115’s power will be wielded once and then never again.
At a Thursday morning press conference, education minister Laurel Broten said the controversial legislation will be used to impose new contracts on 126,000 public teachers and support staff across the province.
But after that, the government will repeal the bill, theoretically stopping it from resorting to similar measures in the future.
“With collective agreements in place, teachers and support workers in this province are no longer in a legal strike position,” Broten told reporters, blaming the impasse on teacers’ unions refusing to negotiate.
But union members say the contracts make strikes more likely, as teachers voted in favour of a one-day protest if the contracts were forced upon them.
“There was a lot of goodwill that was challenged in this, and our members have very long memories,” said Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation.
Under Bill 115, public elementary and secondary school teachers have new two-year contracts containing a pay freeze and cuts to sick time.
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond says parents should be bracing for more job action.
“You cannot expect, based on what this government has done, based on what this Minister of Education did today, that it will be business as usual in schools going into the new year,” he said.
Greg Weiler, president of the ETFO’s Waterloo Region chapter, agrees.
“If the government follows through on what the minister has indicated and imposes the contracts, then I would expect at some point that we will have a day of protest,” he told CTV.
The government says the new contracts are necessary to help the province deal with its $14-billion deficit.
Waterloo Region parents who spoke to CTV have mixed feelings on the day’s developments. Some say it’s about time, while others say teachers deserve the right to strike.
“I’m pleased with the decision that’s finally been made. I think that it’s only going to benefit the kids,” said Jill Poulin.
Teachers’ unions say they have lost confidence in the Liberal government.
Hammondsaid Broten used a “hammer” to remove a decade’s worth of goodwill from teachers, and other labour groups are taking note.
“They are all worried about what’s happening and will be even more so concerned with what’s happened today,” he said.
“Every working person in this province should be alarmed by the steps taken by this minister of education today.”
At Queen’s Park, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak expressed worries in the other direction, saying he didn’t want to see Bill 115 repealed.
“That tells me that they want to put the union bosses back in charge of running the province,” he said.
Speaking at an event in Waterloo, provincial Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy told CTV it would be the job of the next Liberal leader to restore teachers' faith in the government.
With files from The Canadian Press