The province’s decision to impose collective agreements on public elementary and secondary teachers has left unions baffled.
“The whole ‘I’m going to do it and then I’m going to repeal Bill 115’ — not really clear what the actual implications of all of that are,” said Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers’ Federation president Peter Giuliani.
“Really, we’re going to have to have a legal team take a look at this and say, ‘what does this even mean?’”
At Queen’s Park on Thursday, Education Minister Laurel Broten announced the imposition two-year contracts for members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation using powers under the Putting Students First Act.
All new contracts are retroactive to Sept. 1, and will expire Aug. 31, 2014, saving the province $250 million in 2012-13, growing to $540 million in 2013-14, according to the premier’s office. “This is in addition to one-time savings of $1.1 billion with the elimination of banked sick days,” reads the press release.
The province will halt strikes, then repeal Bill 115 by month’s end.
“It does beg the question, doesn’t it? You brought this in, you used it quickly, and then you threw it away,” said Giuliani.
“I don’t know how (Broten) would possibly think this would be viewed by teachers as a goodwill gesture. How does this help things get better?”
The next move belongs to union leadership, Broten said.
“I would ask everyone, especially teachers, to look carefully at the agreements being brought forward today. Our teachers remain among the best paid in Canada and their benefits remain generous …” Broten said in a statement.
But Giuliani stands firm.
“Our role as union presidents, let’s be honest, is to maximize benefits for our members,” he said.
The ETFO is the largest teachers’ union in Ontario, representing 76,000 members, including 3,000 in Ottawa.
Extracurricular activities for students remain up in the air.
“I don’t know if it would even be legal to continue down that road and if our members wanted us to, (I) don’t know,” said Giuliani.
“I think what parents can be sure is that teachers are going to teach their kids. They do care about them. They’re going to do their jobs properly.”
— With files from Antonella Artuso