This blog will focus on the topic of the Ontario school wage freeze. On September 11th, 2012 the Ontario government passed bill 115. The legislation that was passed, imposed anti- strike measures for teachers for two years and a freeze on their wages. Bill 115 not only prevails anti-strike rules but also puts all teachers under a two year contract which freezes wages, cuts benefits and the normally allotted sick days (The Canadian Press 2012). They are also deprived of collective bargaining rights. According to the Provincial government this situation is temporary until the budget problem is fixed (Flavelle 2012).
The reason the Liberals say they passed this law is to help with the $15 billion Ontario deficit. They believe that over the next two years that this bill is implemented the deficit will become smaller without cutting job positions or laying anyone off (The Canadian Press 2012). Furthermore, the Liberal government proposes to have similar sanctions on other public sector workers if no agreement will be reached on budget freezes.
As a way to fight back against the anti-strike legislation, union members urged teachers to abstain from any voluntary activities, like coaching sports after school, as a form of retaliation. Many find this bill to be the complete opposite of what the government stands for, and that is undemocratic and unconstitutional (The Canadian Press 2012). The fact that teachers cancelled many extra-curricular activities has a great impact on high school students who need those clubs to help them graduate, get scholarships, and make them a more competitive choice when applying for post secondary education (Fox 2012).
Although students are greatly affected by the new bill 115 because many of them do not have access to extracurricular activities now, they are taking the teachers’ side. Students from Bramalea High School demonstrated on Queen’s Park their support for the teachers. There were dozens of walkouts by students all over Ontario in support of their teachers (Flavelle 2012).
Districts like Bluewater District School Board are acting on repealing bill 115. Trustees in this school board are finding that the consequences of Bill 115 are noticed not only on the teachers, but the students themselves (Divinski 2012). Trustees say that this bill “undermines human rights law, labour law, and democratic institutions like the board” (Divinski 2012:1) A concept that this board came up with to save money without cutting wages is to combine the public and separate school boards and later the French schools.
As recently as October 15th, 2012 the Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty resigned from his position as a Premier of Ontario. This means that the legislation is being prolonged for months, this might result in negotiations with union members to be dragged on even longer (Leslie 2012). This freezes all contracts and deals that were on the table, not only the ones with teachers but other union members as well.
Overall, everyone is waiting to see where bill 115 will take teachers in the Ontario school boards and how this legislation might be eventually implicated in other public sectors.
Canadian Press. 2012. “Wage Freeze Bill for Teachers Passes in Ontario Legislature: Unions Urge Teachers to Halt Voluntary Activities.” cbc.ca, September 11. Retrieved October 15, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/09/11/toronto-ontario-teachers.html)
Divinski, John. 2012. “Trustees want Merger, Bill 115 Scrapped.” bayshorebroadcasting.ca, October 17. Retrieved October 17, 2012 (http://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/news_item.php?NewsID=51472).
Flevelle, Dana. 2012. “Students Protest in Support of Ontario Teachers.” thestar.com, September 29. Retrieved October 15, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1264395–students-protest-in-support-of-ontario-teachers)
Fox, Chris, 2012. “Vaughn School Sports Leaves Students Reeling.” cp24.com, September 13. Retrieved October 15, 2012 (http://www.cp24.com/news/vaughan-school-sports-cuts-leaves-students-reeling-1.954542)
Leslie, Keith. 2012. “Tories , NDP want Legislature Recalled Now, not After Liberals Pick New Leader.” globaltoronto.com, October 16. Retrieved October 17, 2012 (http://www.globaltoronto.com/opposition+says+mcguintys+decision+to+prorogue+the+legislature+a+huge+mistake/6442734324/story.html)