The Liberal government used legislation to force contracts on public elementary and secondary school teachers. Also Thursday, Education Minister Laurel Broten announced the government would repeal that legislation once the two-year contracts are in place.
Broten defended the move, saying it prevents automatic salary increases the province can’t afford as it wrestles with a $14-billion deficit.
But teachers say the move is an illegal assault on their right to collective bargaining.
'We don't have an agreement'
Darcy McGlenaghen, who teaches Grade 7 students at a midtown Toronto school, was on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Friday, and told host Piya Chattopadhyay that the move will further sour relations between teachers and the government.
“A contract is an agreement and we don’t have an agreement,” said McGlenaghen. “The minister has imposed her set of working conditions on the employees. We’ve got some grievances with that.”
Jason Kunin, a Toronto secondary school teacher who was on Metro Morning, said the province's move to legislate a contract is a bad omen for all unionized workers, not just Ontario teachers.
“We’d be very poor role models in the classroom if we didn’t stand up for our rights,” said Kunin. “This attack on collective bargaining didn’t begin with teachers and it won’t end with teachers. This is part of a larger sustained attack on working people.”
Focus turns to extracurricular activities
Much of what happens next will focus on whether teachers will supervise extracurricular activities, such as coaching sports teams or supervising clubs, when classes resume Monday following the holiday break.
As the dispute between teachers and the province escalated last fall, many teachers began withdrawing their supervision of extracurricular activities — work they aren't required to perform under their contracts.
Broten said on Metro Morning that she admits she has no way of forcing teachers to supervise these activities, but said she hopes they will resume when the spring semester begins.
“I hope that we will see a re-engagement of extracurricular activities,” said Broten.
Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said he doesn’t see that happening.
Teachers are also angry the province is using a law that will be repealed once the contract is in place. Broten called the move a "goodwill" gesture.
The teachers who spoke to CBC on Friday didn't see it that way.
"There is no goodwill here," said McGlenaghen. "She’s taken away stuff we’ve earned in past years.”
McGlenaghen is also upset the Ontario Liberals are imposing the contracts after proroguing the legislature in September.
“We have a government here that’s legislating us back to work and they’re all on strike … they walked out of the legislature and locked out the other parties.”