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Teachers’ Anti-Strike Law

Limestone District School Board, teachers strike, contract negotiations, Kingston, OntarioLast Tuesday, Bill 115 passed a final reading in the provincial legislature with 82 MPPs voting in favour, and 15 (NDP) MPPs opposed. The controversial legislation, known as the Putting Students First Act, was implemented to avoid a possible teacher’s strike and help get the province’s finances back on track.  Premier McGuinty explained the move as follows:

We have to protect our public services while eliminating our deficit.  In Ontario, we have a plan to balance the provincial budget by 2017-18. Our plan will grow the economy, create more jobs and support our schools and health care. It calls for hitting the pause button on public-sector pay – this affects all public servants, including our teachers.  We had a choice to make: a pay raise for teachers and continuing with bankable sick days that could be cashed in upon retirement, or focus education funding on the classroom. We can’t do both. So, we chose the classroom … our new education law secures $2-billion in savings. This makes it possible to finish rolling out full-day kindergarten and keep class sizes down – so our students can keep improving their test scores and graduating in even greater numbers. In short, our plan continues our progress in our schools.

The province’s decision to forgo collective bargaining has generated tremendous opposition from teachers, unions and supporters from across Canada. Following the announcement, teacher’s were urged to wear black and pass on extracurricular clubs and activities as a part of a one-day demonstration of solidarity.  With uncertain times ahead for teachers, students and parents, this week’s poll question asks:

Do you support Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act?

  • No. (86%, 344 Votes)
  • Yes. (13%, 51 Votes)
  • Undecided. (2%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 402

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Since the approval of Bill 115, teachers have been on the offensive regarding the government’s refusal to negotiate at the bargaining table, stating that the province’s attempt to impose unprecedented terms and conditions will be met with legal/constitutional challenges. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), who represents over 70,000 teachers, occasional teachers and educational support personnel outlines the impact of the Putting Students First Act as follows:

  • 60% of teachers will receive a pay cut; and 40% of teachers, mostly younger ones, will receive only 50% of their scheduled increases for experience and additional qualifications earned through taking university degrees, courses, and other professional development they pay for themselves.
  • Cuts the number of sick days by 50% and discontinues the accumulation of unused days.
  • Discontinues a retirement gratuity plan that was originally promoted by school boards as an incentive to discourage the use of sick days and to reduce expenditure on supply teachers.

As someone who experienced four teacher strikes as an elementary and secondary school student, I can fully appreciate the negative impact failed negotiations have on the education system.  Freezing wages and cancelling the accumulation/cash out of sick days may be widely acceptable, but legislating rather than negotiating a unionized labour agreement is an entirely different story.

What are your thoughts on Bill 115?  Are you worried or optimistic regarding probable legal challenges?  Drop off your thoughts below.

Thanks to andres musta for today’s photo from the ETFO rally at Queen’s Park to protest anti-union legislation.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

11 thoughts on “Teachers’ Anti-Strike Law

  • September 18, 2012 at 8:13 am
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    It is unfortunate that Bill 115 ensures that educators have no recourse from Ontario Labour Law OR the Human Rights legislation. Both rights and humanity removed in one theft disguised as legislation. Will they strike down contract law next?

  • September 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm
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    Whether people agree with the teachers or not, they need to see the bigger picture here. The issue is not really about whether teacher pay, benefits, etc. is fair. It's about the complete disregard by the government for collective bargaining rights. Back-to-work legislation is undemocratic. Even if you think teachers are overpaid, you might want to support them. Because one day, you might get legislated back to work if this kind of behaviour by the government becomes acceptable.

    • January 3, 2013 at 11:42 am
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      I believe it is very democratic. The employer has the right to set compensation levels to those that are consistent with market resources and the resources of the employer. Since when does the employees rights supercede the rights of the employer? I am hopeful this is only the beginning and that all public sector workers face the reality that we in the private sector have been dealing with for years. Unions are a parasitic form of communistic control over the productivity of a nation and need to be recognized as that.
      In my world it is much simpler – you don't like the beneftis and wages… quit! There are plenty of replacements waiting for these jobs who will work for less and likely be more productive because they appreciate what they have.
      If you don't like working under these conditions I suggest you find a new career! Good luck with that!

  • September 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm
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    It's not OR but AND. I don't believe Bill 115 as the only way to deal with the deficit in the education sector. Just you wait…there will be regulations coming down the pipe. Ontario is learning from countries where teachers are highly stressed. The old ones will retire ASAP. New teachers will then replace them at a much lower cost.

  • September 20, 2012 at 9:59 am
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    Education should be considered an essential service, much like policing, fire, etc. I sympathize with the teachers that they have been put in this position, but it is their ever-increasing habit of striking and holding kids' education randsom that has forced the government's hand in taking preventative measures this time.
    Labour rights and unions came about as a direct result of worker health & safety, then later ramped up to address equality issues. Workers were getting injured or dying… pay was based on gender rather than the work being done… those were the issues worker rights, unions and labour regulations were born out of.
    That's a far cry from banked sick days and moving up the pay grid, isn't it…

    • September 21, 2012 at 9:35 am
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      Ever-increasing habit of striking? Can you list these strikes, please? You'll find there aren't a whole lot.

      The fact is, collective-bargaining rights have been suspended. This is a blow against democracy, against the right of workers to negotiate their conditions of labour. This, not the issues of sick days and the pay grid, is what is pissing teachers off. The government only negotiated with OECTA, the Catholic teachers, and this deal was largely seen as bad by its membership which wasn't consulted (a fault of OECTA's leadership). When this deal was signed, McGuinty chose not to negotiate with the other teachers unions but impose the OECTA contract on them. This is not negotiations. Then the government effectively legislated a contract. The issues of sick days and the pay grid are matters legislated in the contract chosen by McGuinty – these are the details to a non-negotiated, imposed contract. It is the lack of fair collective bargaining, not these specific issues, that is the problem. Got it?

    • September 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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      Agree something needs to be done about the absurd compensation levels of public service unions and them using heir monopoly positions to hold the public hostage. But essential service designation probably isn't it when we see police etc have managed to use the arbitration process open to them to increase their pay rate even faster then the ones who can strike. Just hope for a government that will take a hard line in 2 years against the effort the unions will be making to make up for the freeze.

    • September 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm
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      "That's a far cry from banked sick days and moving up the pay grid, isn't it…".

      No, dumb-dumb; it's not–it's exactly the same thing.

    • September 23, 2012 at 12:16 am
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      There was never an impending strike. Teachers said they would not strike, that the school year would begin without a strike, and it DID! Teachers kept their promise. Teachers agreed to a wage freeze a long time ago. "Putting students first?"….I don't know how McGuinty and his liberals and Hudak and his PCs can look at themselves in the mirror. They have no integrity. Teachers put kids first each and every day. They advocate for their students each and every day. The government had no legal right to do what they did. Teachers WILL be vindicated through the courts…in time. But it amazes how many people don't see how dangerous this government is. Are you fine with your rights…your democratic rights being taken away from you. Soldiers fought in wars to protect democracy….they would turn in their grave!

  • September 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm
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    Smoke and mirrors…. It amazes me how everyone is arguing about this and no one in the public seems to realize the issue is not wages, or anything to do with compensation or benefits of any kind … McGuinty and Broten have put them selves above the law! They actually have a clause that allows them to be above any human rights challenges in that bill.

    Read carefully: Bill 115 states that it is above these crucial pillars of society. Bill 115 takes away rights that were put in place over decades to give ordinary working people — teachers, factory workers, nurses, cashiers, sanitation workers and newspaper reporters, all of us who put in a day’s work for a day’s pay — protection from abuses by powerful and overreaching businesses, corporations, and governments … governments like McGuinty’s.

    And I quote:

    14. (1) The Ontario Labour Relations Board SHALL NOT INQUIRE into or make a decision on whether a provision of this Act, a regulation or an order made under subsection 9 (2) is constitutionally valid or is in conflict with the Human Rights Code.

    Limit on jurisdiction of arbitrators

    No review by court
    15. (1) NO TERM OR CONDITION included in an employment contract or collective agreement under or by virtue of this Act, process for consultation prescribed under this Act, or decision, approval, act, advice, direction, regulation or order made by the Minister or Lieutenant Governor in Council under this Act SHALL BE QUESTIONED OR REVIEWED IN ANY COURT."

    ARE YOU KIDDING???? THIS IS THE STUFF OF WWII GERMANY.

  • October 9, 2012 at 5:46 am
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    Hmm restriction to rights. Yep welcome to Harper Land. Where the rides are safe as long as we tell you they are.

    Fine print… admission costs subject to skyrocket.

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