More Ontario teacher turmoil possible: union official

Teachers from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario are shown picketing outside the Toronto District School Board on Yonge St. on Dec. 18, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS


TORONTO -- Parents with kids in Ontario's public elementary schools could face more labour unrest in the new year, a union official warns.

A deadline -- midnight Monday -- set for Ontario's teachers and school boards has come and gone without any new labour agreements being put in place.

And if Education Minister Laurel Broten enacts provisions of Bill 115, which allow the government to impose deals on teachers, there could be further job action, said David Clegg, president of the York Region Elementary Teacher's Federation of Ontario.

"Our members are completely committed to finding a fair resolution and doing whatever needs to be done to create that environment, if that means having to leave their classrooms again, either through strikes or protests, they're quite prepared to do that."

Clegg said all eyes will be on Broten on Thursday to see if she uses the controversial legislation to impose teacher contracts.

If that happens, teachers may once again walk picket lines as they did last month during a series of rotating one-day strikes.

Broten had urged teachers to meet with their local boards in an attempt to strike deals before midnight Dec. 31. Since that failed to happen, Bill 115 permits the province to impose a wage freeze, a sick-day benefit rollback and limits on teachers' right to strike.

Negotiators for York's teachers last spoke with their board on Dec. 5 and no last-minute negotiations were held, Clegg said.

"The bill gives her unprecedented scope of choices here," he said. "Ultimately, there is nothing in Bill 115 that legislates goodwill."

Clegg said teachers will also be keeping a close eye on the Liberal leadership vote to be held in three weeks. At that point, a new premier will take power and the party's next leader could appoint a new education minister.

"I would assume that one of their first priorities would be dealing with this crisis," he said. "It's a crisis that the Liberal Party and (Premier Dalton) McGuinty manufactured, but it's something he's left for his successor.

"It's not one that will be easily solved with the minister he's left in place right now."

Broten indicated Monday that she will make a statement regarding the teacher talks Thursday.

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