Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan visited Brantford Friday night to show solidarity with local educators who oppose a Liberal bill they say guts their collective bargaining rights.
During a rally in Harmony Square, Ryan told teachers and support workers that their cause is just.
“You’ve certainly made your mark and sent the signal to the Liberals in Ontario that you are prepared to stand up and fight for your democratic rights and your Charter rights,” Ryan said to applause from the crowd.
Bill 115, which is currently being challenged in the courts by education unions, forces school boards that have not negotiated new labour deals with the province to adhere to the terms of a “memorandum of understanding” reached with Catholic boards in the summer. That agreement reduces sick days and sets rules as to how new teachers can be hired.
Teachers, custodians, educational assistants and support staff came in from Waterloo, Caledonia and Simcoe to stand alongside colleagues from Grand Erie.
Grand Erie Elementary Teachers’ Federation president Donna Howey lambasted the government’s decision to impose a labour deal on teachers and outlaw job action before proroguing the Legislature.
“Bill 115 stripped away the rights of all education workers and created an unnecessary crisis in the school system,” Howey said.
In response, local public high school teachers have curtailed extra-curricular activities. At the elementary level, teachers and support staff are in conciliation with the Grand Erie District School Board in an attempt to negotiate a new contract to replace the agreement that expired in August.
Howey said it’s up to individual schools to decide what job action to take, though she had strong words for a bill she called a threat to all unionized employees.
“It’s funny that we’re gathering at the end of anti-bullying week, because it feels like we’re being bullied by Bill 115,” she said.
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond, ETFO vice-president Susan Swackhammer, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation vice-president Harvey Bischof, Canadian Union of Public Employees representative Janice Folk-Dawson, and Brantford and District Labour Council president Garry MacDonald also spoke at the rally.
To keep up the pressure on the government, education workers are planning a provincial day of action in January.