The attacks on teachers and other educational professionals, now cropping up all over North America, are frightening. Teachers - whose work is so important, who are so underpaid and undervalued, who routinely use their own money and their own time to supplement underfunded classrooms - are being blamed for budget deficits - deficits caused by a regressive tax structure.
Teachers are not the problem. Teachers' unions are not the problem. Teachers' unions:
- help set classroom conditions that are vital to childrens' education
- help educators enjoy a modicum of job security, so they can concentrate on doing their jobs
- are teachers. They are your childrens' teachers. They are your neighbours. They are not some band of "outside agitators" who've come to steal your taxes. Without unions, working conditions - that is, the conditions in the classroom - will deteriorate, and schools will deteriorate.
We shouldn't balance Ontario's budget on the backs of students and teachers. There's another solution to budget woes: repeal corporate tax cuts. If we taxed corporations fairly, we could pay provincial employees fairly without burdening the individual taxpayer.
In Canada, the right to collective bargaining is a human right recognized under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If one group of people can be so easily stripped of their Charter Rights, we should all be deeply concerned. Today it's teachers. Who's next?
Ontarians, please learn more and make your voice heard: sign the petition to repeal Bill 115.
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Bill 115 was introduced on August 27, 2012 and passed on September 11, 2012. Liberal and Conservative MPPs voted to support the bill. The NDP voted against.
The Government of Ontario said the legislation was necessary to avoid teacher strikes and prevent salary increases among teachers who have earned additional qualifications through professional development and for younger teachers due scheduled salary gains that reflect their classroom experience.
The government said it was moving to prevent strikes weeks or months before such action was even legally a possibility. Full strikes on the part of teachers and other education workers are rare occurrences and always a last resort.
All Ontarians - and all Canadians - should be concerned about the dangerous precedent set in Bill 115.
Bill 115 gives the government unprecedented powers over school board negotiations with no accountability through legislative debate.
- imposes the terms and conditions of an agreement reached between the Ontario government and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), with a couple of important exceptions that favour the employer.
- means 60% of teachers will receive a pay cut; and 40% of teachers, mostly younger ones, will receive only 50% of their scheduled increases for experience and additional qualifications earned through taking university degrees, courses, and other professional development they pay for themselves.
- cuts the number of sick days by 50% and discontinues the accumulation of unused days.
- discontinues a retirement gratuity plan that was originally promoted by school boards as an incentive to discourage the use of sick days and to reduce expenditure on supply teachers.
- singles out one sector – education – for wage restraint.
- by-passes the legal bargaining regime by imposing contract provisions.
- suspends the normal, legal framework for negotiating contacts with school boards.
- introduces extraordinary legislative measures to prevent legal challenges to the bill.
- sets a dangerous precedent for other unionized employees in particular and democratic principles in general.
- gives Cabinet rather than the Legislature the right to restrict strikes and lockouts.
- gives Cabinet the power to extend the provisions of the bill beyond two years without having the issue debated in the Legislature.
- gives the Minister of Education unlimited and unprecedented powers to approve or change any contract negotiated between school boards and the affected unions.
Sign the petition to repeal Bill 115.