Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bill 115

It's hard for me to sit by and listen to all that is being said about elementary school teachers and bill 115 that has recently been pushed upon them. It is "a collective agreement that was not collectively agreed upon."(Professor Marvin Rider, Ontario Today) I think when the general public gets a hold of situations such as this one we let our emotions takeover; emotions that blind us and make us argue with an uneducated, irrational opinion, especially because it is the children who take the brunt of the inconveniences when there is a strike involving teachers.

I am biased as I do have family members and friends who are teachers, fighting for their rights to collectively bargain. I also have family members and friends who I have had countless arguments with regarding what the teachers are fighting for. It is for both sides of my family that I write this-- to the family and friends fighting: stand up for what is right and what you believe in, I support you and your cause. And to the family and friends who fail to see the importance of the teachers plight: please consider what follows.

Countless articles, reports and discussions focus and revolve around the wage freeze that the government is implementing on the teachers. Yes, Bill 115 implements a salary freeze, 3 unpaid P.A days (where the teachers are still working), a cutback of annual sick days from 20 down to 10, and a losing of all banked sick days teachers previously acquired. However, for the majority of teachers the most important issue with this Bill 115 does not concern the above impositions. The majority of teachers are fighting against the part of the bill that allows the cabinet to intervene and prevent any strike either before or after it begins-- an infringement on the already established collective bargaining practice. In other words, taking away the unions rights to collectively bargain. Regardless of the money or the sick days, I ask you: is it a crime for teachers to stand up for their rights? Because tomorrow, the government may say that it is.

Yes, I realize at the end of the day it is always about money. Even if the teachers agree to the wage freeze for now, the collective bargaining rights that they are fighting for allow them to negotiate wages. But if you were in their position, wouldn't you want this right? The teachers are not getting paid while walking out and protesting against this bill so it can't just be about money. Furthermore, they are not just fighting for their own collective bargaining rights, but for union rights in general. If the provincial government is able to pass this bill it will set a dangerous precedent for all future union-labour negotiations.

And yes, perhaps the teachers should be happy with what they already have, the perks of being a teacher are numerous; there are the benefits, the pension plan, the steady salary and of course the vacation time (two weeks in the winter and two months in the summer)-- but how is this an argument when you, too, could have chosen to be an elementary teacher-- it's not like these perks are hidden away and kept secret from the general public. The fact is this job is not for everyone. They are sometimes treated like glorified baby sitters, and often deal with things that are not listed in the job description. They volunteer their time to coach a sport or run a team. Do you really think the teachers are happy about the "Work to Rule", where because of the actions by the provincial government they can't run the homework club, or the school play or the basketball team. The majority of teachers are just as frustrated with this situation as you are. As for the sick days, working with kids all day has got to get a bit “germy”, so frankly I wouldn't be surprised if the average teacher is more likely to catch a flu or cold than the average office worker. They need those sick days.

Unfortunately, when the teachers fight for their rights, the kids are the ones who suffer-- so if you are frustrated by this GOOD (that’s the point!), get educated and educate your kids about what the teachers are fighting for. These are jobs and unions that those kids may one day join. The teachers are not asking the kids to take sides, but they are asking for awareness and for people to understand why they must sometimes strike. And if you agree, they could use your support. Yes, it is inconvenient and frustrating and this recent skirmish has gone on far too long; teachers agree with that!

So remember tomorrow that if the teachers walk out, illegally or not, it is not because they want to. Most of them would much rather be in the classroom teaching and doing what they love. But instead, they are fighting for their rights, for what is right, and hopefully teaching the children this important lesson while they try and pave the way for union rights.


  1. Great post Meghan and I agree completely with what you've written here. I'm a staunch supporter of collective bargaining rights (although I'm a non-unionized professional) so I strongly support the teacher unions in their fight against Bill 115 on that principle alone. The ability to abolish these rights with such sweeping legislation concerns me.

    However, I have a question for you about the imposed contracts since you seem to have been following this closely. I realize that banking of sick days has been abolished but do you know what's happening to previously banked days? I've read through various unofficial sources that newer teachers (less than 10 years experience) will actually lose their previously banked days but I've not been able to confirm it. Do you know for sure?

    1. Hi Mr. tinfoilsocket, Thanks for reading! The information revolving around sick leave credits is confusing. Both newer teachers (less than 10 years experience) and experienced teachers had their previously banked sick days wiped clean on August 31, 2012 and are now on the "10 day" system. This system gives each teacher 10 days of sick leave per year and these days are not carried over to the next year.

    2. Are you sure about that? I stumbled upon this about an hour ago that seems to indicate it's only newer teachers that had their banked days "confiscated". Have a look at the second page under the point for "Retirement Gratuities".

  2. Right, when talking about retirement gratuities this means that any sick days you did accumulate prior to August 31, 2012 are frozen and you cannot use them as sick days or accumulate any more -- you only have ten like everyone else. Originally teachers had a collective agreement that, upon retirement, there would be a compensation for those teachers that didn't use all of the allotted sick days granted to them in a year. When facing retirement the teacher has the right to “cash out” their unused sick days or use them before they officially retire. Some regions (such as Wellington County) have previously (as in before the bill) negotiated these sick days a way. I am not positive on which regions still have them, but I do know that some used them to bargain for other things during the negotiation period. For those regions who still had their retirement gratuity sick days, Bill 115 has changed the payout amount.