Public elementary and high school teachers are in the midst of job action across Ontario and education unions are set to ramp up their protest of Bill 115 — a piece of legislation that could impose a two-year contract on educators and make it easier for the government to end strikes.

The players:

  • Education Minister Laurel Broten
  • Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO). The union has 76,000 members.
  • Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF). The union has 60,000 members.
  • Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The union represents 55,000 education workers including custodians, secretaries, educational assistants and library staff.
  • Warren “Smoky” Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). The union represents 130,0000 education workers.


Timeline:


Sept. 11, 2012: Bill 115 passes in the provincial legislature.
Oct. 11, 2012: Four education unions launch legal challenge of Bill 115.
Dec. 4, 2012: Public elementary teachers finish voting on holding a one-day political protest.
Dec. 7, 2012: ETFO could start issuing 72-hours notice of rotating one-day strikes.
Dec. 10, 2012: Public elementary and public high school teachers across the province will stop participating in all extracurricular and volunteer activities.
Dec. 31, 2012: Deadline for local collective bargaining between unions and school boards.


What is Bill 115?

The Liberals’ legislation, also known as the Putting Students First Act, was passed on Sept. 11 with the support of the Progressive Conservatives.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

Click here to read the OSSTF response to the bill.

It allows the government to impose a two-year contract on teachers that includes a two-year wage freeze, a 50-per-cent reduction in educators’ sick days from 20 to 10 and ends teachers’ ability to bank unused sick days. But most controversially, it gives Broten the power to end a strike or lockout without debating the issue in the provincial legislature.

What’s the deadline?

The unions and school boards have until Dec. 31 to reach local agreements within strict parameters as set out by the government. If deals aren’t negotiated by then, the government will impose a contract.

What do unions say about the bill?

The unions have described the legislation as “undemocratic” and “draconian” and an attack on their right to collective bargaining.

Some other union complaints, according to the ETFO, about the legislation include:

  • it gives cabinet the power to extend the provisions of the bill beyond the two-year term without debate in the legislature
  • it gives the minister of education “unprecedented” powers to change negotiated contracts between unions and school boards


The legislation is based on an agreement between the province and the Ontario Catholic English Teachers’ Association (OECTA).

What does the government say about the bill?

The Liberals insisted the legislation was needed to rein-in spending amid a $15-billion deficit, while maintaining their full-day kindergarten plan.

When the bill was introduced in September, Broten said the legislation contains “tools within it to respond to provincial work-to-rule circumstances.”

She said was “confident” the legislation can withstand a court challenge and said the move is reasonable under the province’s current financial circumstances.

Does Bill 115 ban strikes?

No. Unions are still able to hold strike votes and action as mandated under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. What Bill 115 does is give the provincial cabinet the power to enact back-to-work measures without debate in the legislature.

How are unions fighting it?

Four education unions — ETFO, the OSSTF, CUPE and OPSEU — filed court challenges on Oct. 11.

The ETFO and OSSTF encouraged members to withdraw from some administrative and ministry-related duties after the legislation was enacted.

When could job action be taken?


Both unions are instructing members not to participate in extracurricular activities as of Dec. 10, as well as some administrative and ministry-related duties. This means Christmas concerts will have to be held within the school day and after-school sports and field trips will be cancelled.

The ETFO plans to hold a day of protest, although the date hasn’t been determined. President Sam Hammond said the union plans to hold rolling one-day strikes and parents could start receiving 72 –hours notice of that action as early as Dec. 7.

What kind of actions could a school board take in response to strike action?

According to the Waterloo Region District School Board, “the options available to employers with unionized employees engaging in legal strike action include adjusting pay, and in the most extreme cases, lockout employees.”

What does it mean for Toronto students?

The Toronto District School Board said teachers will still be conducting parent-teacher interviews and filling out report cards. However, some activities – like Christmas concerts – are canceled at some schools.

What does it mean for York students?

According to the York Region District School Board website, extra-curricular activities are affected.

What does it mean for Durham students?

Teachers are taking job actions in the schools, according to the Durham District School Board website.