Ontario uses controversial Bill 115 to force contract on teachers’ unions

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew

Ontario officially reached the end of its patience with stubborn teachers’ unions and implemented legislation that forces a two-year salary freeze and revoked the right to strike on Thursday.

Education Minister Laurel Broten announced at a morning press conference that she would use the controversial Bill 115 to impose new deals with elementary and high school teachers.

Unions had until Dec. 31 to agree to a contract with local school boards. With the legislation now imposed, those unions that did not reach an agreement will have a deal forced upon them.

[ Related: Are walkouts the right way for Ontario teachers to protest? ]

That deal includes a two-year wage freeze and the loss of some benefits, including reducing sick days from 20 to 10 per year and limiting the number of days that can be saved until retirement.

Broten said on Thursday that the government would move to repeal Bill 115 now that it has served its purpose.

She said teachers were no longer in a legal strike position and urged union leaders not to launch any protests against the legislation.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) held a series of one-day strikes across the province in December and has threatened further job action to protest the forced contracts.

ETFO had urged the Liberals to hold off on a decision until a new party leader is chosen later this month.

It is a tough pill to swallow, but most teachers' unions have already come to an agreement with local school boards. Unions representing more than 90,000 teachers and support staff already have deals in place with the government, leaving only ETFO and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation to face the imposed deals.

[ Related: Rolling Ontario teachers’ strikes test McGuinty’s mettle ]

Ontario teacher salaries have gone up 24 per cent since 2008, and the Ministry of Education reports that teachers have received wage increases in each of the past eight years.

Those unions that continue to hold out point to Bill 115’s ability to block job action as their main source of contention, suggesting the battle is not over yet.