Supporters of Teachers Protest against Bill 115

Sunday, September 23, 2012

  • Protesters look on as Liz Sandals addresses the crowd rallying against Bill 115

    Protesters look on as Liz Sandals addresses the crowd rallying against Bill 115

Written by Peter Miller

On Friday September 21, the Guelph District Labour Council held a march and rally in support of education workers in Guelph and Wellington County. Participants in the rally assembled at Goldie Mill Park and marched towards Guelph MPP Liz Sandals’ office at 4pm. About 350 people participated in the rally.

The march was a reaction to Bill 115 – the “Putting Students First Act,” that recently passed in the Ontario Legislature, that imposes a contract that makes teachers take a 2 year wage freeze, cuts paid sick days in half, and bans teachers from going on strike.

Bill 115 is also an attack on the right to collectively bargain for workers. The provincial government is not the bargaining agent and has no bargaining rights, and no legal rights to impose a collective agreement on either Ontario School Boards or the education unions that negotiate with them.

The School Boards and teachers would be going through negotiations during September working on a collective bargaining agreement if this bill had not been passed. Now that it has been passed, teachers’ unions are saying they will fight the bill all the way to the Supreme Court. The Canadian Civil Liberty Association also is adamant that the bill is against the right to collectively bargain.

Janice Folk-Dawson, the chairperson of the Guelph District Labour Council began the speeches from a mega phone in front of Liz Sandals office. She told the supporters that the government should “negotiate, and not legislated.”

Other speakers included Mary Gardner from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation District 18. She said that the bill is against the “democratic right to collectively bargain” and that the Ontario government is acting as if it is “above the law.”

Other speakers included Gundi Barbour, the Upper Grand District School Board’s Elementary Teacher’ Federation of Ontario’s Vice-President, and a representative from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the custodial workers union, the Canadian Auto Workers, and the president of the city of Guelph Transit Union.

A lot of the speakers, including the representatives from the UFCW and the CAW pointed out that the attack on teachers was a dangerous precedent, and could result in further attacks on all workers if we do not stand up and protest.

The CAW representative alluded to the past attacks on the postal workers as well as the attack on workers at Air Canada. In both cases the Federal Government imposed back to work legislation on striking workers.

During the speeches Liz Sandals, Guelph’s MPP representing  the Liberal Party came out to address the crowd. The crowd booed loudly when Sandals said “she was appreciative that there are still extracurricular activities” going on at schools. Teachers and workers rallying were upset at this. Some teachers have protested by stopping extracurricular activities as a way to pressure the government to rescind the bill.

Liz Sandals also told the participants in the rally that she respects their right to protest. This message was met with participants yelling and asking her why she does not respect their right to collectively bargain.

One participant in the crowd yelled, “how does it feel when no one is listening to you” at Sandals, as Sandals was having trouble speaking because of noise from the crowd. This was said because the government is imposing an agreement on the teachers without listening to them. The protesters are upset with Liz Sandals because she “vehemently” supported the passing of bill 115.

The protest was very lively with teachers and their supporters breaking out to chant throughout the speeches. Slogans repeated included “no bullying,” “repeal 1,1,5,” “shame,” and “negotiate not legislate.”

Padraic O’Brien also spoke at the rally representing the Guelph Student Mobilization Committee. He told the crowd that the committee supports the teachers in their protest. He also spoke about the Quebec Student Movement; that we should bring that movement to Ontario, and as he spoke about this, the crowd cheered.

Protesters also threatened that the Liberal Government would pay at the ballot box for the next election.

Mary-Kathryn Barbier, a teacher at John McCrae School was asked why other workers and especially youth should support teachers in their protests against Bill 115 and responded that “the reason why you need to care is because if [the government] can legislate this, what else are they going to legislate.”

Barbier also mentioned that youth should support unions because “unions are what support maternity leave. They are what got sick days for people. [They] got the 40 hour work week.”

Bill Foster, a representative of the custodial and maintenance workers’ union also spoke at the rally. He attacked the provincial government for cutting 2 billion dollars to education.  He asked the crowd if cutting two billion dollars to education is good and the crowd responded with a loud “no.”

MPP’s in the provincial government that support bill 115 say it is needed to help lower the provincial deficit. However, Ontario has the lowest corporate tax cuts in the industrialized world. Ontario corporate taxes have lowered from 14% in 2010, to 11% today. They are set to be lowered again to 10% in 2013.  The corporate tax cuts in 2010 amounted to 2.4 billion dollars.

Critiques say that instead of focusing on teachers and workers, the provincial government should not allow corporate tax rates to lower, and instead increase corporate taxes. They say the Ontario government is perpetuating a race to the bottom where Canadian workers and families are being squeezed more and more.

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