Teachers in Hamilton, Ontario, are wearing black to protest new legislation that freezes their pay for two years, cuts sick days in half (and ends their ability to bank sick days) and bans strikes for two years.
Bill 115, dubbed Putting Students First Act, became law Tuesday morning and forces a contract on Ontario elementary and secondary school teachers and about 50,000 support staff, according to a Daily Brew report.
In an act of defiance, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federations (OSSTF) local 21 asked its teachers and members to halt volunteer and extracurricular activities today, and deck out in black.
Additionally, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is asking teachers to play hooky from school-based or system-level meetings on Mondays, calling the protest "McGuinty Mondays."
Unions call the Ontario bill “undemocratic” and vowed to take legal action.
"We do not take this action lightly. Ontarians and the government need to know that you cannot take away the democratic rights of working people simply to fulfill a political party's agenda or ideology," ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement.
According to QMI Agency reports, "CUPE Ontario announced a constitutional challenge will be launched on the grounds that the bill interferes with collective bargaining."
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has also bemoaned the legislation, calling it “unconstitutional and undemocratic.”
The bill is necessary to help Ontario gain control over its $14.8-billion deficit, according to the bill’s sponsor, Dalton McGuinty, premier of the providence of Ontario. McGuinty promises to continue full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes and more prep time for teachers.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, voted against the new legislation and fears McGuinty's bill will end up in the Supreme Court of Canada where taxpayers could be made liable for back wages and reimbursement of the government's legal costs.