PARRY SOUND - Friday afternoon teachers and their supporters held a peaceful rally outside Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller’s local office protesting his vote for the Putting Students First Act.
Teachers accepted wage freeze, Liberals deceitful, Hodgson.
Teachers protest outside Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller’s office Friday afternoon.
Stephannie Johnson/North Star
The act is based on a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and gives school boards, teachers and support staff until Dec. 31 to engage in local collective bargaining and accept agreements consistent with the government’s fiscal and policy priorities, including maintaining investments in full-day kindergarten, keeping class sizes small and protecting funds earmarked for the classroom.
“We want to make sure that we remind Mr. Miller how unhappy we are and we won’t forget that and we want the public to understand that we never rejected the wage freeze component and we were trying to work with the government way back in April to try and come up with a deal that included the wage freeze that they said we refused to acknowledge and that’s just not true,” said Glen Hodgson, president of the Near North District branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) Friday morning. “We tried to negotiate a deal and they refused to negotiate with us. We’re very upset with the removal of our right to even negotiate collective agreements with our locally elected school board. We have huge problem with this bill on a number of levels. The Liberals keep saying (we) don’t want to accept a wage freeze and that’s total crap, we’ve accepted a wage freeze right from day one. To strip us of our democratic right, before we even have a chance to negotiate, with your democratically elected school board trustees is absolutely ridiculous and we won’t stand for it. It’s unacceptable.”
Hodgson said the rally is not only to stand up for the teachers’ rights, but the rights of the students as well.
“We want to emphasize and we continue to emphasize, we were more than happy to negotiate with our school board,” said Hodgson.
“We were not planning any action, we were not going to shut down the schools, we did not reject the wage freeze,” said Hodgson. “The Liberal government has pushed this all along and created this situation that’s causing turmoil in our schools and they should be ashamed. We really want the public to understand who the bad guys are in all of this,” Hodgson said.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Friday afternoon between 30 and 35 teachers crowded the sidewalks holding signs and received honks of support from passing cars.
“We want to let Mr. Miller know that our collective bargain rights have been stripped,” said OSSTF vice president Steven McCallum. “We’re hoping that people realize the impact this will have on education.”
The Putting Students First Act is retroactive to September 1 and requires that any automatic pay increases received after August 31 be paid back.
According to the government, over the next two years, the act will save taxpayers $2 billion.