â€œWe are currently reviewing the legality and constitutionality of the proposed legislation and are preparing for a legal challenge if it should become law,â€ Ken Coran, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachersâ€™ Federation (OSSTF) said on Friday. â€œOur focus is on getting deals at the local level.â€
Coran accused Education Minister Laurel Broten of not respecting the collective bargaining process.
â€œThe government is showing contempt for the bargaining processes that are enshrined in law and that have always worked,â€ he said of Brotenâ€™s bill that was introduced on Thursday.
She proposed a new â€œPutting Students First Actâ€ urging the education sector to reach an agreement before Aug. 31, when the current contract will trigger an automatic 5.5 per cent teacher pay hike, which she said would cost $473 million.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said on Friday that he will not declare legislation to impose a new contract on teachers and hinted the Legislature will be recalled the week of Aug. 26 to impose a two-year contract if teachers havenâ€™t signed new contracts with school boards.
Two big unions representing teachers say their members intend to return to the classroom in the fall and the government is creating a crisis where none exists.
â€œThe Ontario governmentâ€™s decision to propose unnecessary legislation against the education workers and school boards of this province is puzzling,â€ Coran said. â€œReal negotiations take time, and imposing impossible deadlines can lead to unwanted and unnecessary conflict and crisis.â€
Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachersâ€™ Federation of Ontario, said the 76,000 teachers he represents are disappointed with ministry officials.
â€œTo blatantly ignore constitutional rights and the labour relation rights in this province, itâ€™s extremely disappointing and problematic,â€ he said.
If the deadline passes allowing teacher contracts to roll over on Sept. 1 and trigger pay raises, the proposed legislation allows the government to claw back the money.