Following is the text of a letter from OSSTF/FEESO President Paul Elliott to the Minister of Education regarding Bill 92, School Boards Collective Bargaining Amendment Act, 2017.
March 23, 2017
The Honourable Mitzie Hunter
Minister of Education
22nd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2
Dear Minister Hunter
I am writing today to relay the concerns of OSSTF/FEESO regarding the Bill 92, School Boards Collective Bargaining Amendment Act, 2017. We have concerns with the process that was followed and with the content of the legislation.
We were involved in three “consultations” with representatives of the government. It was exceedingly clear to us from the first meeting that the government’s view was that the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act was a successful piece of legislation and only required minor revisions to improve it. We wholeheartedly reject this premise. Having been participants in the first round of collective bargaining, we can unequivocally state that the process is inherently flawed and was a failure. I won’t repeat the facts around these assertions in this letter, but they have been provided in detail and in writing through the consultation process as well as through our submission to Committee Hearings on Bill 92 on March 8, 2017.
Despite our repeated pleas to take a more fundamental look at the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, the government clearly maintained its initial view that the 2014-2017 negotiations were a success, despite the fact that these negotiations led to the most significant work stoppages in decades along with a variety of protracted job actions and lingering tensions. The process was slow, inefficient and ineffective.
It was disheartening that the input from OSSTF/FEESO, a union that represents 60,000 teachers and education workers across Ontario, was summarily dismissed and ignored. Further evidence of our input being ignored is provided in your comments during the third reading of Bill 92 on March 22, 2017, when you stated, “The Act, which came into force in 2014, facilitated the return to a strong, respectful and collaborative partnership between the government and its education sector partners. In doing so, positive outcomes for school communities across the province were achieved through the landmark 2014 to 2017 collective agreements.” This characterization of the SBCBA experience is at complete odds with the reality experienced by OSSTF/FEESO.
We remain mystified as to why Bill 92 was moved through the Legislature so quickly given the fact that extensions have been reached across the sector, meaning that there was absolutely no urgency to bring this to conclusion. It would have been much more prudent to take the time required to engage in real and meaningful consultation and take a more realistic and objective look at the shortcomings of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act.
Bill 92 does not address the fundamental problems with the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act. We have no reason to believe that the next round of collective bargaining under this flawed legislation will be any more successful than the last. This is bad news for the entire education community and for the province of Ontario.
We sincerely hope that your government will reconsider and find a better path forward.