Two bills, one cause

Dear editor
The presidents and provincial executives of all the teacher affiliates from across the province met in Toronto on Thursday, Sept. 25 to discuss Bill 160–the misnamed Education Quality Improvement Act.
The good news is that the government decided to allow teachers to maintain membership in their federation, and to allow principals and vice-principals to remain in their federations.
The bad news is that unless Bill 160 is changed, it will set education back at least a quarter of a century. The bill demonstrates that the government is concerned with money and power. The improvement of education is not the driving force behind the government’s agenda.
This legislation, if implemented, will allow non-certified personnel to deliver programs in designated areas. In this district, computer studies, special education, kindergarten, physical education, guidance, art, music, library, and technology are areas that could be targeted. What the government fails to recognize is that, currently, these programs are being delivered in the schools by trained, certified teachers who are specialists in their fields.
Bill 160 proposes the elimination of statutory contracts, effectively eliminating just-cause language with regard to terminations and thereby creating an environment of fear and instability in schools.
Bill 160 gives the government complete control over class size. Historically, free collective bargaining, not the government, has reduced class size. Without the checks and balances of parent and teacher input, the government can increase class size at will and with impunity.
Bill 160 provides for far-reaching ministerial powers over such things as class size, length of school day, length of school year, and preparation time. Rights attained through years of free collective bargaining will be taken away by the stroke of a pen. Government directed working conditions will be set in the regulations without any consideration of short or long term ramifications.
Education workers of the Rainy River District are pleased that the government has amended legislation affecting public sector workers in Bill 136. However, teachers, educational workers and unionized labour agree that a victory on Bill 136 is only half a victory. The workers of Ontario will not back down until Bill 160 is also defeated.
There may be two bills but there is one cause–fair and just working conditions as well as guaranteed equal access to quality public services for all.
Signed by the
Education Workers of the
Fort Frances-Rainy River District
Sharon Preston, FWTAO
Cathy Brindle, OECTA
Andrew Hallikas, OSSTF
Al Holt, OPSTF, and
Judy Carter, OPSTF-EA Branch