It’s an interesting time in Ontario to be in either education or politics. And things keep getting more and more interesting.
In the fall, the legislature was recalled to pass a law, Bill 115 – An Act to Put Students First (or some other political mumbo-jumbo). End of the day, the bill imposed a contract on teachers, effective December 31st, if their local unions didn’t negotiate a deal with their regional employers (i.e. school boards) before the end of the year. Sounds easy, as our union has always been able to negotiate. But the fly in the ointment… any locally negotiated deal had to be ‘substantially identical’ to the one laid out in the law. Well wait a second… what’s the point in negotiating if the outcome is already clear.
Throughout the fall, negotiations occurred at both the provincial level and the regional level. A couple of weeks ago though, to much fanfare in the media, the negotiations feel apart at the provincial level, and we were told that no new negotiations were planned. Imagine our surprise, when four days later, we were told that we had a tentative agreement, days before legal job action was supposed to begin. The deal presented met the same parameters set out under the act, but had a lot of what-ifs (i.e. what if we don’t meet the savings target with a set number of days off… well, there’d be more… how many more though… we’re unsure and what about our benefits… well… they should be o.k., but we haven’t negotiated that yet either and class sizes… yep… nope… can’t tell you anything about that yet). At the end of the day, we were frustrated. Our union has agreed all along to the pay freezes required. We’ve been willing to discuss terms openly and honestly. Yet, we’ve been told we have to fit within the government’s parameters….
Staff are disappointed that the union reached a tentative agreement, which at the end of the day is similar to the bill that we’ve been fighting all along. Not to mention there are too many unanswered questions.
Contrary to the news reports, we’re still performing extra-curricular. I have student clubs/activities at least three days a week (Student Council, the Bridge club for ESL students, Mock Trial and GSA to name the current ones). We’re living up to our end of the bargain, but not getting anywhere with a government, which it seems doesn’t even support the law.
The ruling Liberals have a leadership convention coming in January, and reading what some of the contenders are saying about Bill 115, why should we agree to abide by the law when they don’t even support it:
I don’t know how this going to end. Worst case scenario: another year and a half under a Draconian law that has stripped teachers of their fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the Charter. I’d rather be forced to those conditions though, then accept them willingly. Only time will tell I guess.