Volume 97, Issue 2
Thursday, May 29, 2003

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Tories, OSSTF battle over teachers' rights

By Shawn MacPherson
Gazette Staff

The provincial Progressive Conservatives are looking to limit teachers' right to strike and took the first step toward doing so by introducing legislation on May 21. The new legislation will limit teachers' ability to participate in work-to-rule action.

"This will not help with labour peace," said David Moss, director of communications and political action for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. "The schools will be full of angry people."

The basic right and the only right a worker in society has is to withhold labour, Moss said. "The governments bread and butter issues come from attacking teachers – that's what they have been doing for the last eight years."

"We're not taking away their right to strike – we are taking away their right to strike during the school year and we are also clarifying what is part of a teacher's job," said Jill Scorhade, press secretary for the Ministry of Labour.

"Kids are only in school forty weeks of the year. You could lose ten percent of the school year and in situations like that we have to get back to work," Scorhade added.

The legislation is about putting kids first and making sure they are not used as pawns by the teachers' union, Scorhade said. "It's about parents who have to miss work and also teachers who can't choose whether or not to be part of the teachers' union."

"Clearly, the PCs have been told by their advisors that [by] taking a tough line against school teachers, particularly their right to strike, it is going to be a positive thing," said Paul Nesbitt-Larkin, a political science professor at Western. "It's likely to cause the kind of bitterness that was around in the first years of the Common Sense Revolution."

"[The legislation] stands to do what many of the get tough policies of the Common Sense Revolution did," Nesbitt-Larkin said. "That is, to polarize the province. So far the response has been rather muted."

"When you take away the right of a group to strike, you are restricting political and civil rights," Nesbitt-Larkin said. "Also, you are perhaps creating a situation where you are trying to solve a complex problem by putting a lid on it."


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