Boards of Education: Bill 115

 

A message from the President to Boards of Education members 


January 8, 2013

Events of the past week mark a dark chapter in the history of labour relations in our province. As you know, the Government of Ontario announced last Thursday that it would pass regulations through Cabinet to arbitrarily impose terms and conditions of employment on more than 194,000 employees in the education sector. The purported legal authority for this action – Bill 115 – strips away collective bargaining rights of teachers, educational assistants and support staff under the guise of “putting students first”.

This government action represents a blow to the democratic rights that working women and men have fought to win over many decades. It shows contempt for your right, and the right of every union member, to work together to negotiate a collective agreement that is acceptable to all parties. It also reveals how little respect the current government has for the skills and dedication of those, like you, who work for our boards of education.

Prior to the government’s announcement, all OPSEU bargaining units were engaged in contract negotiations with their local school boards. None were in a position to strike, or had threatened to strike. In fact, many bargaining teams had reached agreement on some articles in your contracts, and were continuing to bargain others.  Further bargaining dates were scheduled with school boards through January and February of 2013, and conciliators from the Ministry of Labour had been assigned to help the parties. This is what collective bargaining should be about. But the Minister of Education wants nothing to do with fair discussion or negotiation.  Make no mistake, the government’s arbitrary deadline of December 31, 2012 had nothing to do with bargaining.  It was a political calculation based on the current Liberal leadership race and a possible spring election.

Having imposed terms of employment under Bill 115, the Minister of Education now finds herself with a massive mess on her hands and, in my view, has no clue where to go from here. The Minister has said she had “no option”. This is transparently untrue.  She has also said that the government will now repeal Bill 115, as if hiding the weapon can remedy the assault on union members’ democratic, Charter-protected rights.

Notwithstanding the unnecessary crisis created by the government, I wish to reassure you in the strongest possible terms that OPSEU is working with your Divisional Executive, local leaders, and other unions in the education sector to protect your rights from the government’s destructive agenda. The OPSEU Executive Board is committed to continued action on your behalf.

OPSEU will continue to pursue our Charter challenge to Bill 115, which was filed in November 2012.  Our case is only strengthened by the events of last week, and we look forward to placing Bill 115 and the government’s actions before the Courts.

In the days and weeks ahead you may receive more information from the government or boards of education about your new so-called “collective agreement”.  You will also be invited by OPSEU to attend information meetings and participate in public action. I strongly encourage you to become involved and support your local leadership when they call on you. For the sake of all members in this sector, and all public sector workers, we must not allow the government’s action to stand unchallenged.

In Solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President

 

Boards of Education Bill 115 Index Page
 


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