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Politics Teachers take Ontario government to court over bargaining rights

File photo: Around 5000 teachers and education workers gathered outside the provincial legislature at Queens Park on August 28 2012 to protest against a controversial bill that would impose wage freezes on Ontario teachers. As well, they lose their right to strike for two years.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's teachers unions are taking the province to court, challenging legislation that they say sets a dangerous precedent by taking away their bargaining rights.

Teachers have been cutting back on voluntary services – such as supervising clubs and sports teams – since early September in protest of Bill 115. That legislation took effect one month ago, imposing restrictions on teachers' ability to strike, reducing their sick days and blocking experience-based pay raises from going through.

The unions had left the bargaining table months earlier, and the province said the legislation was necessary in order to keep teacher salaries from consuming the education budget.

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"Bill 115 strips teachers, education workers, support staff and educational professionals of the right to bargain collectively," reads a news release, circulated Wednesday morning by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. "It sets a dangerous precedent for similar legislation that is already being proposed for the broader public sector."

Education Minister Laurel Broten said on Wednesday that the government will defend the legislation.

"We have ensured that we've acted in a way that is in accordance with the right to collective bargaining," Ms. Broten told reporters.

The unions had already threatened to challenge the legislation back in August, before it had passed. School boards are also unhappy with its terms, and the Ontario Public School Boards' Association has expressed interest in becoming an intervenor in the court case.

Similar court challenges in the past have resulted in rulings that favoured unions and the protection of collective bargaining rights.

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