Teachers have legal right to take job action

An open letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce:

You have been quoted to have said that it was unacceptable for teachers to walk off the job while stating that their action is in the best interest of students. Though I certainly appreciate the sentiment, I find myself wondering what it is that you think the teachers should do.

The history here is important. It was Mike Harris’ Conservative government who abandoned the previous collective bargaining act that applied to teachers (often referred to as Bill 100). Under that legislation, contracts remained in place after expiration pending new settlements. With its abandonment, teacher negotiation was managed under the guidelines of the Labour Relations Act. Accordingly, the applicable dates of collective agreements became much more fixed and the subsequent options available to the employer and employee upon the expiry of a contract, much more firm. Withdrawal of service is the prime legal option available to the teachers under the applicable bargaining legislation.

In your rhetoric citing the inappropriateness of the teachers’ actions, you fail to acknowledge that the withdrawal of service is the legal option that is extended to the teachers in the dispute. You also ignore the fact that your government stripped important terms and conditions of work from the teachers upon expiry of the previous contract. While this action too was ‘legal,’ a reasonable person would certainly ask whether it was in the best interest of children.

Joe Allin

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