Teacher union in Mississauga, Brampton and Ontario wins over $100M in damages from province

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Published February 2, 2022 at 9:44 pm

The union that represents educators in Peel District School Board elementary schools has scored a win in a labour war with the former Liberal government.

On Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas R. Lederer awarded $103.1 million in damages to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), as a “remedy” that builds upon a nearly six-year-old ruling that the province’s Putting Students First Act of 2012 breached the collective bargaining rights of educators. The legislation, under then-premier Dalton McGuinty, imposed contracts on education unions and banned them from striking after bargaining talks had stalled. It was repealed in January 2013.

Teacher unions challenged the constitutionality of the act, and won $115 million in damages in 2016 when the same judge found their right to “meaningful” bargaining had been violated.

“ETFO welcomes today’s decision, but we recognize it does not replace the loss of ETFO members’ bargaining rights, nor the sick leave, gratuities, and salary ETFO members lost when the Ontario government imposed Bill 115,” ETFO president Karen Brown stated. “We thank the court for recognizing that our members’ constitutional rights were violated by a government who unjustly forced contracts on them, froze their pay, and cut sick day provisions as part of an austerity push. Justice Lederer’s decision serves as a reminder to the government that they must never interfere with collective bargaining rights.”

The ETFO said the remedy applies to members who were employed by a school board between Sept. 1, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2014, including those who are no longer employed by a school board may be eligible.

The Liberals led Ontario from mid-2003 until they were defeated in June 2018. But teacher unions have also had bitter battles with Ontario PC Party governments both prior to and since that period, with former premier Mike Harris and present-day Premier Doug Ford.

In the fall of 1997, for instance, there was a two-week provincewide strike against Harris’s Bill 160. The bill centralized education funding at the provincial level instead of with school boards, which remains in place today.

The ETFO said they would contact their 83,000-member strong membership with further details, including specifics about distribution, in the days ahead. The unions membership includes public elementary teachers, occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators, education support personnel, and professional support personnel

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