McGuinty reaffirms threats of legislation to teachers while touring London school
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
While the newly expanded Emily Carr Public School may be ready for students come September, teachers might not be manning the recently built classrooms.
During a tour of the school Thursday (Aug. 9) — which is nearing the completion an expansion that saw six new full-day kindergarten classrooms installed — Premier Dalton McGuinty fielded questions from reporters about a looming teachers strike.
This took place just hours after the provincial government announced a deal had been struck with Franco-Ontarian educators.
“The French-language school teachers have now agreed to participate in this plan,” McGuinty said. “It’s a plan that will save us over $2 billion over the course of the next two years.”
Before heading to London Thursday, McGuinty first went to a school in Windsor where he was met by protesting teachers.
A couple of other groups have also signed similar agreements, which would see a 1.5 per cent pay cut for two years — in the form of three unpaid professional development days — on top of a salary freeze.
Currently, both the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario have indicated they do not support those parameters and say strike votes will take place as early as late August.
Negotiations with the unions have been ongoing since February and teacher and support staff agreements expire Aug. 31. At that time, contracts are set to automatically “roll over,” which would result in salary increases of 5.5 per cent for many teachers and the accumulation of two million more sick days that could be cashed out upon retirement.
But, as a measure to eliminate the projected $15 billion provincial deficit, the government laid out several provisions regarding education funding in its 2012 budget, including a salary and banked sick day freeze. As of Sept. 1, all accumulated sick days would also be eliminated.
If school boards can’t or won’t negotiate and sign local agreements that comply with the aforementioned fiscal parameters, the government will introduce legislation to ensure all groups follow suit.
“We’re prepared to do that in order to ensure that automatic pay hike doesn’t kick in,” McGuinty said Thursday.
While the premier wouldn’t delve into specifics, he said at some point in time a bill will be introduced to the house and subsequently voted on.
In order to pass, the bill would need to be supported by an opposition party. McGuinty said that worries him because of the reactions from both the Conservatives and NDP have towards this measure.
“My concern with the NDP is they’re running as fast as they possibly can from any government measure that seeks to put constraint on public-sector compensation,” he said. “As far as the PCs are concerned, they would argue we’re not hitting teachers hard enough.”
While leaving the news conference, the premier passed by, without recognizing, London Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong, who had been watching the announcement from the back of the room.
After quickly being reacquainted, McGuinty left and Armstrong expressed some concerns she had with what McGuinty had said.
“The comments he’s made really aren’t reflective of the message we’ve (the NDP) been giving,” she said. “The message is … that both parties need to bargain in good faith and go back to the table and work out their differences and come to a fair agreement.”
Armstrong argued that by imposing legislation, the province could open itself up to expensive court battles.
She pointed to a situation in B.C. as an example, where 9,000 public sector employees were legislated back to work, which ultimately cost the province $85 million when the case was brought before the Supreme Court.
“I’m not sure where he’s (McGuinty) going with that because we’re going to end up paying a lot and we’ve got about 10 per cent more than those 9,000 (workers),” Armstrong said.
The rookie MPP added that she couldn’t make a comment on whether the government’s bill would garner her party’s support until it’s presented in the house.