Deadline looming for Ontario teachers, boards
Published Monday, December 31, 2012 7:17AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 31, 2012 1:22PM EST
Time is in short supply for Ontario teachers who have until one minute before midnight Monday to reach labour agreements with their local school boards.
If deals aren’t reached, the teachers run the risk of having contracts imposed on them under the provincial government’s contentious Bill 115.
The legislation -- which has been the subject of widespread protest -- includes a wage freeze, limits the ability to bank sick days and gives the government the power to impose contracts.
Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten has not indicated whether she’ll decide to enforce labour deals if agreements aren’t struck by 2013, but has only said that the option is available to her.
More than 400 local agreements must be reached by the deadline. But according to Broten, only 65 ratified local agreements have been submitted so far.
Some unions representing Ontario educators have urged the provincial government to push the deadline back, but Broten has said that an extension will not be granted.
There was mild hope Sunday when the union representing Ontario’s school support staff announced that it had reached a tentative deal with the government. The agreement applies to 55,000 school support workers, including librarians, secretaries, early childhood educators and educational assistants.
Ontario has given CUPE two weeks to ratify the agreement.
Despite the agreement, the Canadian Union of Public Employees has stressed that it remains opposed to Bill 115 and continue trying to fight the bill. Part of CUPE’s strategy includes a legal challenge.
“Bill 115 created an unnecessary crisis, making things much more difficult at the bargaining table,” Fred Hahn said in a statement issued Sunday. “It was the strength and support of our members, and the tireless work of our bargaining committee that made this tentative agreement possible.”
Teachers have argued that Bill 115 is undemocratic and strips educators of their collective bargaining rights. Though teachers have accepted a two-year wage freeze, the condition that allows the government to impose contracts remains a sticking point.
Earlier this month, thousands of teachers participated in one-day walkouts to protest the bill after Broten announced that she would permit rolling one-day strikes on the condition that she receives 72 hours' notice before any job action.
In one mass demonstration dubbed “Super Tuesday,” roughly 35,000 Ontario teachers hit the picket lines. The Dec. 18 protest shut 350,000 students out of school for the day, and left parents scrambling to make alternate arrangements.
With files from The Canadian Press