Ellen Chambers, president of the Lakehead Elementary Teachers of Ontario, says she's holding out hope for a new culture of labour relations with the appointment of Liz Sandals as Minister of Education.
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The head of the Lakehead Elementary Teachers of Ontario is hopeful a new education minister means the dawning of a new day for labour relations with the province.
On Monday Premier Kathleen Wynne named Guelph MPP Liz Sandals, a former Ontario Public School Board Association president from 1998 to 2002, to the post.
Sandals replaces Laurel Broten, who became a lightning rod for helping to enact Bill C 115, which forced contracts on teachers, effectively removing their right to collectively bargain.
“We’re looking forward to a new minister of education, to say the least,” Ellen Chambers said. “We are quite pleased that Liz Sandals at least has a good background in education. She was the parliamentary assistant to the education minister and also was instrumental in the safe schools surveys and task force.”
Chambers said she Sandals promotion to cabinet as a clean slate, a chance to wipe away the bad taste left by Broten’s rein.
“Definitely. Premier Wynne has already approached us and given us some hope … We are optimistic there will be changes in the future.”
The deal also hacked away at teacher sick time and ended the longstanding practice of banking unused sick days and cashing them out at retirement.
While Chambers remains resigned to the fact Wynne has stated she won’t tear up contracts imposed on teachers through the controversial Bill C 115, she does think there are other ways to smooth relations.
“I’m expecting it to be a new culture,” she said. “I really am. What’s for us? There are lots for us in it. There are things that are not exact, that can be changed outside of Bill 115. The thing we wanted most, and it’s already happened, is that they’ve met with us now, one year late, and discussed the parameters of what any discussion would look like.”
This was lacking in the last negotiations, she added.
“Is it going to change what’s happened? I can’t predict. I don’t think so. They’ve made it very clear that’s what they wanted to get out of it by gutting our collective agreements.”
Chambers said it will be up to the teachers to decide whether or not to return to volunteer and extracurricular activities, which they ceased taking part in as a reaction to Bill 115. At the high school level it’s meant the cancellation of the sports season and has halted the annual musicals most schools put on.
“We have to wait and see what the government does. Teachers will definitely reconsider that, when we see what the government has to offer.”
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