Toronto

Ontario to review court decision affirming teachers' bargaining rights: premier

Premier Kathleen Wynne distanced herself Thursday from legislation brought in by her predecessor to impose contracts on teachers — a move a judge has ruled violated their constitutional collective bargaining rights.

Judge ruled government 'substantially interfered' with negotiating ability

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has tried to distance herself from Bill 115, which the Liberals passed in 2012, imposing wage freezes on some teachers and limiting their ability to strike. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Premier Kathleen Wynne distanced herself Thursday from legislation brought in by her predecessor to impose contracts on teachers — a move a judge has ruled violated their constitutional collective bargaining rights.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Thomas Lederer ruled Wednesday that the government "substantially interfered with meaningful collective bargaining" in passing the 2012 legislation.

Known as Bill 115, it imposed contracts on teachers that froze some of their wages and limited their ability to strike, so five unions took the government to court. The judge sided with them, but left the question of a remedy up to the government and unions to decide.

Wynne said the government is reviewing the decision, but noted that she has taken issue with the legislation in the past.

Wynne spoke in favour of bill in 2012

"I can't give you chapter and verse on exactly the implications, but I can tell you that that legislation was very problematic," she said Thursday.

"When I ran in the leadership [race] starting in 2012, I was clear that we needed to move away from the rancour that had been created because of that legislation."

But that was after the legislation had passed, and as a member of cabinet at the time, Wynne helped pass the bill and even spoke in favour of it during debate. However, she suggested at the time, in the legislature on Aug. 30, 2012, that there was some dissent about it within the party.

"Only someone who does not appreciate the importance of honest, heartfelt discussion would criticize a team that allows that debate, then comes to a conclusion and stands together and takes a stand," she said in response to Opposition criticism.

'Fanatical pursuit of reduced wages'

The legislation came at a time when the government was constraining spending, implementing a public-sector wage freeze. The judge called it telling that even though all sectors were experiencing the same fiscal concerns at that time, Ontario allowed for free negotiations in other sectors.

Smokey Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the decision confirms that the Liberal government trampled workers' charter rights "in its fanatical pursuit of reduced wages and working conditions."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberals brought in the legislation despite warnings from various sides that it was unconstitutional.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said the minister's office clearly didn't do proper research when the contracts were imposed.

"I would have assumed they would have had a legal interpretation to make sure it wouldn't be challenged in the court," he said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.