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Take the politics off the table

(Cartoon by George Longley)

The 2010s have been a particularly rough patch for the relationship between the provincial government and employees of the education sector.

Back in 2012, the Kathleen Wynne-led Liberal government earned the wrath of teacher unions with the introduction of Bill 115, which allowed the province to impose contracts and limited teachers’ ability to take labour-related job action.

This led to roving strikes and teachers refusing to participate in any out-of-class activities.

While the Liberals eventually backed off the controversial legislation, it left a sour taste in the mouths of many educators.

More roving strikes came in 2013, and in 2015, teachers from several boards, including here in Durham, staged their first full-on walkout off the job since the years of the Harris government.

Since Doug Ford and the PCs swept into power last June, teachers unions and opposition parties have accused the Conservatives of looking at the education sector with a view of contempt.

But beyond this, the fact-of-the-matter is there are now five major teaching unions in the province without contracts, and education employees under the arm of CUPE have moved towards job action beginning the week of Sept. 23.

The new school year is barely a week old and the familiar odour of uneasy labour relations is already emerging.

It’s obvious those with the loudest voices in education don’t have a high opinion of the Ford government, and the Conservatives are not going to bend over backward to cater to the unions.

But hopefully both sides can place these moods on the back burner and remember it is what’s best for the students that should come first.

It’s easy to criticize politicians and teachers for having pensions, wages and benefits most Ontarians would die for, but even if there is only a few strikes, it is the kids that are affected the most.

Nobody wants to see Ontario’s students out of class or going without sports and extracurricular programs as well.

Both sides need to sit down at the bargaining table in good faith and leave the politics out of it.

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