The government’s march toward imposing contracts on teachers is creating nothing less than a “crisis,” one local union rep said.
“We think that legislation is completely unnecessary,” said Colleen Canon, president of the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.
There’s been no talk of a strike, and teachers are preparing their classrooms for the start of the school year and bargaining is continuing at the local level, said Canon, whose union represents more than 2,000 Thames Valley district teachers and some support staff.
“We understand that the government has fiscal targets that they want to meet, and we’ve suggested all along that we’re willing to be part of the that conversation,” she said. Members “have offered to take a wage freeze and have offered other really good ideas for how (the government) may meet their fiscal target.”
Phillip Mack, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Thames Valley Teacher Local, did not respond to a request for comment. Joyce Bennett, chair of the Thames Valley District School Board, was unavailable.
The chances of reaching an agreement at the local level before existing contracts expire Aug. 31 are next to nil — pending legislation or not, Canon said.
“If it were feasible to make that happen before the end of next week I think we’d make that happen, but you can’t bargain in haste,” she said, noting that it’s fairly routine for contract talks to extend past the beginning of a school year.
“Quite often, there’s not a signed agreement in place until well into the school year,” she said. “Legislation seems awfully heavy-handed.”
- The cash-strapped Liberals plan to introduce a bill next week aimed at imposing a deal on tens of thousands of teachers that would rein in wages and cut benefits. If passed, the government would also be able to ban a strike or lockout for the next two school years.
- Two big teachers’ unions resisting government proposals have vowed to fight the legislation in court. Education Minister Laurel Broten has expressed confidence that it would withstand a constitutional challenge.
- The Liberals need the help of at least one opposition party to pass the legislation. Opposition Leader Tim Hudak suggested Wednesday that his Progressive Conservatives are open to talks.
Source: The Canadian Press