Union slams Ontario’s collective bargaining bill for schools

New legislation would bring school boards, associations to negotiating table
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 01/21/2014

The Canadian Union of Public Employees has decried the Ontario government’s plan to overhaul the way it negotiates contracts in schools.

The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, otherwise known as Bill 122, passed its second reading late last year, and should it become law, would create a two-tiered bargaining system.

That means trustee associations and school boards (such as the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation) would join unions and the provincial government at the bargaining table. Whereas school boards and unions would negotiate local issues, the government would negotiate province-wide provisions. Under this new centralized model, a collective agreement could only be ratified if it had support from all three parties.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) vehemently opposed the legislation during a press conference on Jan. 13. The government’s failure to honour a previous contract with CUPE has cost them support for Bill 122, according to the union. Last year, the now-repealed Bill 115 (which imposed labour contracts on public school teachers and limited their ability to strike) forever soured the relationship between staff and the government.

“The government is producing inequality in schools – the very opposite of what central agreements achieve,” said Terri Preston, chair of CUPE’s school board co-ordinating committee. “Support workers doing the same jobs, working just down the road from one another but employed by different boards, are receiving differential treatment. That makes no sense, it’s not fair and that should never happen under the agreement we bargained.”

But education minister, Liz Sandals, said the new legislation will streamline the collective bargaining process.

“We developed this legislation after extensive consultations with our education partners. My commitment, and our government’s commitment, is to strengthen the relationships we have with these stakeholders,” she said. “This legislation will help bring more clarity and consistency to future rounds of bargaining and allow us to move forward together.”

Should Bill 122 pass, it would take effect early this year. Most existing collective agreements for school staff expire in August 2014.

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