TORONTO – Ontario’s governing Liberals are axing a controversial law that has outraged public school teachers, just a few days before the party is set to choose a new premier.
The change, which will take effect on Wednesday, comes only four months after the law was passed.
Bill 115 allowed the cash-strapped Liberals to impose contracts on about 126,000 teachers and education workers across the province earlier this month, which froze the wages of most teachers and cut their benefits.
The legislation sparked a major protest by teachers’ unions after it was passed in September, resulting in rotating one-day strikes by elementary teachers and the withdrawal of extracurricular activities by high school teachers.
It also alienated a powerful group that’s helped the Liberals get re-elected over the last nine years. Making the law history before the Liberal leadership convention may help the party press the reset button with teachers and give the winner a clean slate as premier.
The Liberals promised to repeal the legislation after imposing the contracts on Jan. 3, but that didn’t do much to assuage at least one union leader, who called it a “disgraceful misuse of government power.”
“The damage has already been done. I think it’s all calculated, and therefore inactive. What’s the difference, of just throwing the smoking gun away? This could lead to potential negotiations, but what’s stopping the government from pulling out another gun?” — Phillip Mack, president of Thames Valley chapter of Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, on the Liberal government repealing Bill 115
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario were set to stage a one-day walkout in protest of the forced contracts, until the government took it to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which deemed it an illegal strike.
“By moving to repeal the act, the government is promoting goodwill and stability in Ontario’s schools by addressing a key concern of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation,” the government release said.
Several unions have already put the wheels in motion to fight the legislation in court, calling it unconstitutional and a violation of their right to strike.