Credits: Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
The Canadian Union of Public Employees says it plans to protest Bill 115 at Liberal leadership candidate debates around the province.
Several CUPE members voiced their opposition to the bill at Saturday's Liberal leadership meeting in Ingersoll, Ont. They distributed postcards highlighting the threat of Bill 115 and listing 15 employment standards they say were first achieved through collective bargaining.
Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, gives teacher and school staff 0% increases, partially freezes the salary grid, eliminates sick day banks and bans strikes for two years.
Teachers argue the bill goes well beyond that to give cabinet, rather than the legislature, the right to restrict strikes and lockouts, to extend the bill beyond two years and to approve or change contracts negotiated with local school boards.
Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, said the bill overrides fair collective bargaining processes in the school board sector that have worked for decades.
In a statment, Hahn said, "We are here to deliver a message to all the candidates - we want a commitment, from whoever wins, to repeal Bill 115, and to abandon any plans for any legislation that threatens our democratic right to free collective bargaining.
"The province has created an unnecessary crisis in our schools, choosing to fight us instead of talk with us," said Hahn. "Our members are at bargaining tables every day, working to find solutions. The government's intrusion threatens these efforts and the services our members provide."
The McGuinty government brought in the legislation after provincial talks failed to convince all teachers and school staff that they should freeze their wages and salary grid, and discontinue “retirement gratuities” that allow many educators to bank unused sick days and cash them out at the end of their careers.