The Ontario government repealed Bill 115 today, removing from the books controversial legislation that allowed the province to impose labour contracts on public school teachers earlier this month.
The bill, which limits teachers’ ability to strike, had come to symbolize the bitter dispute between a Liberal government trying to curtail costs and teachers who say their right to collective bargaining has been removed.
Public elementary school teachers staged rotating, one-day strikes across the province in December.
On Dec. 31, Bill 115 came into effect. Days later, Education Minister Laurel Broten used the legislation to impose two-year contracts on teachers while also vowing to repeal the legislation once those contracts were in place.
Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), appeared on CBC radio’s Metro Morning on Wednesday and said he’s happy the government is following through with its promise.
"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "There’s a lot of bad will that’s been circulating through all the worksites. It will take a lot more than just repealing the bill to remedy those feelings."
Coran also said union leaders want to sit down with the new premier, who will emerge from this weekend's Ontario leadership convention in Toronto. His hope is that having a new person in the premier’s chair will help cool tensions between the province and its teachers and lead to future labour deals that are negotiated, not legislated.
"We're hopeful that those fractured relationships can somehow be restored," said Coran.
Many teachers continue to withhold duties they perform outside of the classroom, such as supervising clubs and sports teams.
Coran would not say whether his members will now resume extracurricular duties as an act of good faith.
"We continually review the situation,” he said. “Hopefully we will have a fruitful talk with the new [premier]."
"It is our members that will determine the actions that we go forward with. The first step is let’s see where a genuine conversation can lead to. Let’s sit down. Let’s revisit some of the ideas we have and look at solutions."With files from The Canadian Press