Legislation Will Deny Teachers Strike Option
Queen’s Park: The McGuinty government intends to introduce legislation that, if passed, would put teachers and students back in school.
The Putting Students First Act, if passed, would require that school boards and local bargaining units of teachers and support staff accept agreements consistent with the government’s fiscal and policy priorities. These priorities include maintaining investments in full-day kindergarten, keeping class sizes small, and protecting funds earmarked for the classroom.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) is an example of such an agreement.
The legislation, if passed, would take effect Sept. 1 and therefore would also prevent automatic pay increases for teachers if current contracts roll over as scheduled on Aug. 31.
It would be required, under the proposed act, that any increases paid to teachers and staff before the legislation passes be paid back.
The proposed legislation, according to government estimates, would save the province $250 million in 2012-13, growing to $540 million in 2013-14. In addition, the province would achieve one-time savings of $1.4 billion with the elimination of banked sick days.
“Since February, when talks first began, we have been firm but fair; focused but flexible and unwavering in our commitment to reach labour agreements that protect the gains we have made in education. By introducing legislation, we are taking an important step toward giving certainty to students and families that school will start on time and uninterrupted,” said Laurel Broten, Minister of Education.
Opposition leader, Tim Hudak, noted that the real problem is that this government has handed the system over to the unions, not the parents, and that it should never have come to this: “None of us wants to derail the school year – or let the unions off the hook. I want to see our kids in school and learning.”
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