Putting Students First Act

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The Putting Students First Act (also known by its former name, Bill 115) is an act passed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The law allows the provincial government to set rules that local school boards must adhere to when negotiating with local unions and to impose a collective agreement on the board, employee bargaining agent, and the employees of the board represented by the employee bargaining agent if negotiations are not completed by December 31, 2012. This bill also limits the legality of teachers' unions and support staff going on strike.

Bill 115 was given its first reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on August 28, 2012, and received Royal Assent on September 11, 2012. The bill was supported by the Ontario Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and opposed by members of the NDP. The result of the vote was 82-15 in favour of the bill.[1] The act took effect immediately after approval and school boards, teachers, and support staff continued to engage in collective bargaining until December 31, 2012.

Collective bargaining is ongoing in an attempt to have the government's education partners reach agreements that respect local circumstances while remaining within limitations established in the legislation. The Putting Students First Act is intended to ensure that school contracts fit the government's financial and policy priorities, and aims to prevent labour disruptions during 2013 and 2014. It was claimed that the law would save the province of Ontario $2 billion and would prevent spending $473 million, a reduction the government claimed to be crucial. The Minister of Education has the power to withhold approval of collective labour contracts and the parties involved will risk having an agreement imposed if a proposed deal does not meet the standards of the legislation.

Background[edit]

Collective bargaining was ongoing in an attempt to have the government's education partners reach agreements that respected local circumstances while remaining within limitations established in the legislation.[2] Bill 115 was intended to ensure that school contracts fit the government's financial and policy priorities and aimed to prevent labour disruptions during 2013 and 2014.[3][4] The Putting Students First Act purportedly saved the province of Ontario $2 billion and will prevented spending $473 million,[2] a reduction in spending the government said to be crucial.[5] The Minister of Education was given the power to withhold approval of collective labour contracts and the parties involved risked having an agreement imposed if a proposed deal did not meet the standards of the legislation.[3]

Enforcement and repeal[edit]

When tabled in the legislature, section 22 of Bill 115 stated that "This Act comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor", while section 20 said "This Act is repealed".[6] Royal Assent was granted to the bill by Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley on September 11, 2012, and, at the direction of the Executive Council and despite the wording of section 22, the date of the enforcement of only sections 1 to 19 and 21 was proclaimed on the following day.[7] Another proclamation was issued by Order in Council on January 21, 2013, bringing section 20 of the act into force.[8]

Terms and conditions of contracts of the act[edit]

  • The Ontario Labour Relations Board is prohibited from inquiring into whether this act is constitutionally valid, or if it is in conflict with the Human Rights Code.[3][4]
  • No arbitrator or arbitration board is permitted to inquire into whether this act is constitutionally valid, or if it is in conflict with the Human Rights Code.[3][4]
  • No terms or conditions included in a collective agreement under this act may be questioned or reviewed in any court.[3][4]
  • All teachers are subject to a two year pay freeze.
  • A restructured short-term sick leave plan that would include up to 10 sick days.[2]
  • No salary increases in the 2012-2014 school years.[2]
  • All teachers will receive a 1.5% pay cut in the form of three unpaid professional development days (PD days)[2]
  • This bill also limits the legality of teachers' unions and support staff going on strike.[3]

Opposition[edit]

Many union leaders believe that Bill 115 is a threat to unionized employees as well as democratic rights and values, due to its power to limit strike action and impose a collective agreement without negotiation.[9] Some union members are concerned that future legislative acts could further restrict teachers' bargaining options.[4] Protests took place in many places in Ontario in an attempt to bring Dalton McGuinty's attention to this Bill and try to stop it from being passed. On September 14, 2012, teachers in Ottawa, Ontario protested with signs outside of Dalton McGuinty's office. The rally was organized by the secondary school teachers’ federation, and had close to 800 people attend, including students who left classes to support their teachers.[10] The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has suggested that its members take a “pause” in after-school programs. Many teachers in both elementary and secondary schools have withdrawn from supervising any after school activities.[11] On December 15, 2012, high school students from the York and Toronto region participated in a walkout against Bill 115. Students then traveled from their schools to Queen's Park to protest the act. Several hundred to a few thousand students across the city were estimated to have attended.[12]

Canadian Union of Public Employees[edit]

More than 55,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are also affected by Bill 115. They are the support staff working for school boards in Ontario. Some custodians, maintenance staff, secretaries, educational assistants, early childhood educators, and library technicians are campaigning against Bill 115. Union members are meeting across the province of Ontario to discuss this issue.[9] CUPE has also initiated legal action to contest the validity of Bill 115.[9]

Strike action[edit]

On December 10, 2012, elementary school teachers from the Avon Maitland District School Board and the District School Board Ontario North East begins the one-day, rotating strikes in Ontario elementary schools.[13] It continued until Christmas break.

The union representing elementary school teachers from across the province planned a walkout for January 11, 2013.[14] The strike would affect over 900,000 students.[14] Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called it an illegal strike.[14] Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, called it a one-day protest.[14] Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod "blasted" the Liberals for being "so vague" in their response.[14] The New Democratic Party stated that they believe the teacher unions actions are legal and blamed the government for creating "chaos in schools".[14] The union representing Ontario high school teachers announced that they have planned a walkout for January 16, 2013.[14] The provincial government went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on January 10, 2013 at 3 PM to try to stop the planned walkout action by Ontario's elementary and high school teachers.[14] The Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that the walkout was an illegal strike on January 11, 2013 at 4 AM.[15] The elementary and high school teachers' union called off the strike after the decision.[15] The Toronto District School Board and Halton District School Board were originally closing all elementary schools regardless of the labour relations board's decision.[16] However, management from the two school boards changed their minds and opened elementary schools.[17] Elementary schools in the Greater Essex County District School Board were closed.[18] Disobeying the order would have placed the union and teachers in contempt of court and fines of up to $25,000 for the unions and up to $2,000 for individual teachers.[17]

Chronology of events[edit]

Date Event Source
July 5, 2012 Ontario Catholic teachers reach deal with the provincial government. However, separate school boards are refusing "to sign on over fears management has given up too much power over hiring." [19]
August 7, 2012 Toronto Catholic District School Board become the first Catholic school board to accept a deal. [20]
August 28, 2012 First reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. [21]
September 11, 2012 Royal Assent given. [21]
September 12, 2012 Sections 1 to 19 and 21 are brought into force by royal proclamation [7]
December 3, 2012 The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) announced that high school teachers won't lead any extracurricular activities. The OSSTF also stated that high school teachers will report only 15 minutes before the start of the school day and leave immediately after classes. [22]
December 10, 2012 Elementary school teachers from the Avon Maitland District School Board and the District School Board Ontario North East begins the one-day, rotating strikes in Ontario elementary schools. [13]
December 11, 2012 Elementary school teachers from the District School Board of Niagara and the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board go on a one-day strike. [23]
December 13, 2012 Elementary school teachers from the York Region District School Board. High school students held a mass protest rally at Queen's Park. [12]
December 14, 2012 Elementary school teachers from the Toronto District School Board and Peel District School Board went on a one-day strike. [12]
December 20, 2012 The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), who represent support staff, threaten to have one-day strikes. [24]
December 30, 2012 The provincial government and CUPE reached a tentative deal. [25]
December 31, 2012 Deadline for school boards, teachers, and support staff to finalize a collective bargaining agreement. [3]
January 3, 2013 Minister of Education Laurel Broten announced that she has imposed contracts on teachers and will be repealing Bill 115. [26]
January 9, 2013 The Union representing Ontario public elementary teachers announced that they planned one-day, province wide walkout for January 11, 2013. The Union representing Ontario public high school teachers announced that they planned a one-day, province wide walkout on January 16, 2013. [14]
January 10, 2013 The provincial government went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to stop the planned walkout by Ontario's public elementary and high school teachers. [14]
January 11, 2013 The Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that the walkout is an illegal strike. The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation called off their one-day strikes. Elementary schools in the Greater Essex County District School Board were closed. [15]
[18]
January 21, 2013 Section 20 is brought into force by royal proclamation [8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Benzie, Robert (September 11, 2012). "Ontario teachers vow to curb extracurricular activities as bill passes freezing wages". The Star. Retrieved 22 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Backgrounder". QUEEN'S PRINTER FOR ONTARIO. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Bill 115, Putting Students First Act, 2012". The Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Bill 115, Putting Students First Act, 2012". The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  5. ^ CTVNews.ca Staff (October 15, 2012). "Ontario deficit to be $14.4B this year: Duncan". CTVNews. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ Elizabeth II (September 20, 2012), Putitng Students First Act, Queen's Printer for Ontario, S.20 & 22, retrieved January 26, 2013 
  7. ^ a b Elizabeth II (September 22, 2012), "Proclamation", The Ontario Gazette (Queen's Printer for Ontario), 145-38, retrieved January 26, 2013 
  8. ^ a b Elizabeth II (January 21, 2013). "Order in Council". Human Resources Legislative Update. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c "CUPE Locals launched rallies to defend democratic rights". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  10. ^ ZILIO, Michelle (September 15, 2012). "Hundreds protest Ontario teachers’ legislation outside Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Ottawa office". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Flavelle, Dana (September 29, 2012). "Students protest in support of Ontario teachers". The Star. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Brown, Louise (13 December 2012). "Teacher protest: TDSB and Peel elementary teachers to walk off job Tuesday". Toronto Star. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Caroline Alphonso; Karen Howlett (December 6, 2012). "Ontario won’t nix one-day walkouts as teachers threaten longer strike". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kristin Rushowy; Robert Benzie (January 10, 2013). "Ontario teacher protests: High school and elementary teachers plan one day ‘illegal’ strikes". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c "Union’s deliberate day of chaos is a black mark for teachers". Globe and Mail. January 11, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  16. ^ Carys Mills; Alyshah Hasham (January 10, 2013). "Teacher protest: GTA schools closed for one-day walkout". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Mills, Carys (January 11, 2013). "Teacher protest: All GTA schools will be open after walkout ruled illegal". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Chen, Delson (January 12, 2013). "Duncan angered by school closures". Windsor Star. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  19. ^ Kristin Rushowy; Robert Benzie (July 5, 2012). "Ontario Catholic teachers reach deal with province; agree to wage freeze". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  20. ^ Kretzel, Lasia (August 8, 2012). "Ontario reaches deal with Toronto Catholic School Board on teachers’ pay". National Post. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Bill 115, Putting Students First Act, 2012". The Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  22. ^ Robert Benzie; Kristin Rushowy (December 3, 2012). "Ontario teacher protest: Extracurriculars in high schools to go, union says". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Ontario teachers union announces more one-day strikes for next week". National Post. Canadian Press. December 8, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  24. ^ Brennan, Richard J. (December 20, 2012). "CUPE threatens one-day strikes over Bill 115". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  25. ^ Bradshaw, James (December 30, 2012). "Ontario reaches tentative deal with union representing school support staff". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Ontario imposes contracts on public school teachers". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. January 3, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2013.