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Repealing Bill 115 'meaningless,' union says

By: Sudbury Northern Life Staff

 | Jan 22, 2013 - 10:16 AM |
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario members in the Sudbury area walked out of class Dec. 17 to protest Bill 115, which was ultimately used to impose contracts on teachers. The province is now repealing the bill to promote goodwill. File photo.

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario members in the Sudbury area walked out of class Dec. 17 to protest Bill 115, which was ultimately used to impose contracts on teachers. The province is now repealing the bill to promote goodwill. File photo.

Province says it's 'promoting goodwill'

Repealing Bill 115 is a “meaningless gesture,” according to a press release from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

The province announced that it will repeal the bill, also known as the Putting Students First Act, as of Jan. 23. The government used the bill on Jan. 3 to impose contracts on many of the province's teachers, including ETFO members.

On the same day, they promised to repeal the bill.

“The legislation achieved its goal of ensuring fair, balanced and responsible collective agreements for teachers and support staff while protecting the gains made in education and reflecting the province's fiscal reality,” a Jan. 21 press release from the Ministry of Education said.

“By moving to repeal the act, the government is promoting goodwill and stability in Ontario's schools by addressing a key concern of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers' Federation.”

ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a press release the premier and education minister are “deluding themselves” if they think repealing Bill 115 “will promote goodwill and stability in the education sector and restore their popularity.”

“They used the bill and are now trying to make it disappear in the most crass of political acts. It’s a sleight of hand that ETFO members and most Ontarians will see through,” he said.

“It’s time to focus on real solutions. We are hoping the next premier and education minister will engage in fair and respectful discussions to help find solutions to the problems and chaos that has been created by this bill.

“The government has not achieved fair and balanced collective agreements. It dictated terms and conditions of employment and, by its own admission, took over $1.6 billion out of teacher collective agreements which to that point had been fairly negotiated. Of 450 agreements, only 65 were negotiated; the remainder were imposed.”

When Education Minister Laurel Broten promised to repeal the bill, ETFO called the move a “cynical misuse of government power.”

“The education minister will never erase the stain of Bill 115 on the democratic rights of Ontarians. Nor will the bill’s repeal cause those judges who hear our Charter challenge to look on this government benevolently because Bill 115 is no longer on the books.”

The province's press release said more than 100,000 teachers and support staff are benefiting from negotiated agreements that meet the government's fiscal goals while supporting student achievement.

The remainder of collective agreements were put in place under the Putting Students First Act.

The province is committed to protecting the gains Ontario has made in education while taking steps to eliminate the deficit, the press release said.

According to the government, the new contracts will save the province $250 million in 2012-13, growing to $540 million in 2013-14. This is in addition to one-time savings of $1.1 billion, primarily from the elimination of banked sick days.

“New collective agreements announced this year ensure the government can meet its fiscal goals while continuing to roll out full-day kindergarten, maintaining smaller class sizes and protecting 20,000 teaching and support staff jobs,” the press release said.

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