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Laurel Broten to impose contracts on Ontario public school teachers

Rob Ferguson and Richard J. Brennan
Queen’s Park Bureau

Education Minister Laurel Broten is imposing contracts on public school teachers under the controversial Bill 115 but has promised to repeal it because the wage freeze law has become a “lightning rod.”

“It’s an important step to find a way forward with our teachers,” she said Thursday in a reference to labour strife that has seen public elementary teachers hold one-day rotating strikes and join high school teachers in boycotting extracurricular activities.

The measures were first reported in today’s Star.

Broten said her aim in removing the law at the end of January, which limits teachers’ collective bargaining rights, is to encourage teachers to resume coaching sports teams and supervising school clubs when students return to classes on Monday.

“We’re removing that barrier and we’re very, very hopeful we’ll see the return of extracurricular activities,” she told a news conference at Queen’s Park.

There was no immediate reaction from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario or the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which were planning to respond later Thursday.

Broten said teacher unions, which had threatened a one-day political action over any imposed contracts, should not to engage in wildcat strikes.

“I would very much (ask) them not to tell their teachers to engage in illegal activity.”

The contracts imposed on public teacher unions at school boards other than the 65 where deals have already been reached will be retroactive to last Sept. 1 and expire on Aug. 31, 2014.

Deals will freeze wages for most teachers but allow younger ones to continue moving up through the salary grid while cutting sick days in half to 10 and ending the banking of unused sick days to be cash-out upon retirement as the government fights a $ 14 billion deficit. The contracts mirror a deal negotiated with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association last summer.

“This is cynical politics at its worst,” said New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale—High Park), whose party voted against Bill 115, which passed last fall with support from the Progressive Conservatives.

“This has nothing to do with the well-being of students and has everything to do with the well being of the Liberal Party,” she charged, accusing the minority government of trying to woo teachers back into the fold with a possible spring election approaching.

DiNovo added she finds it “very hard to believe” repealing Bill 115 and imposing contracts will end the “disturbance” in classrooms.

“Nobody falls for this.”

Annie Kidder, executive director of the lobby group People for Education, said the imposition of contracts won’t address concerns that teachers, particularly in public high schools, will continue to boycott extracurriculars until the deals expire at the end of August 2014.

“What are we going to do for the next two years?” she asked.

“I’m not really sure this is going to solve the problems we are in and is definitely not going to get us back to that sense of partnership and collegiality . . . it’s still a worry in terms of what’s going to going to happen come Monday in our schools.”

thestar.com – News

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