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The fight’s not over after Bill 115’s repeal

January 23, 2013

After using Bill 115 to impose harsh contracts on teachers, the Liberals have repealed the law on the eve of the party’s convention, and are presenting themselves as progressive alternative to the Tories.
The Bill should have shattered any illusion that the Liberals are an alternative. Like the Democrats in the US—whose Chicago mayor mimicked the Republicans by attacking teachers last year—the Liberals are just as keen union-busters as the Tories. Both are using the austerity agenda to attack public sector workers and pit them against those using services.
The Liberals called Bill 115 the “Putting Students First Act” in order to justify smashing teachers’ collective bargaining rights—imposing a contract that undermined wages and benefits, and giving decision-making power to the state’s Minister of Education. Facing dropping popularity the Liberals broadened their anti-democratic attacks to the entire legislature, which they prorogued. 
Resistance and containment
There was a groundswell of opposition against Bill 115, part of the broader anti-austerity struggles. High school students walked out against it, chanting “kill Bill 115”, and organized rallies at Queen’s Park. Teachers withdrew extra-curricular activities, rallied, confronted Liberal leadership candidates, and held rotating strikes. There was solidarity from in neighbourhoods.
But the trade union bureaucracy didn’t give a lead to the fightback, and called off a day of action when the Labour Relations Board ruled it illegal. This didn’t stop teachers from spilling into the streets to protest the bill, but the union leadership’s prioritization of a strategy focused on the bargaining-table and the courts dampened the struggle.
At the same time, the political expression of the trade union bureaucracy—the NDP—stood silent on the Liberals’ attacks on democratic rights. Disillusionment with years of Liberal rule is increasing support for the Tories, who are calling for further attacks on workers rights like what's happening in Michigan. But without strong opposition from the NDP, the Liberals have been allowed to both attack workers and to pose as the alternative to the Tories.
The Liberals hope to use their January 26 convention to act as if nothing happened—repealing Bill 115 without the new leader having to oppose it, resuming the legislature, and campaigning as the alternative to the Tories while the harsh contracts they imposed remain.
All out January 26
That’s why the January 26 Rally for Rights and Democracy, outside the Liberal party convention, is more important than ever: to show the Liberals and Tories that opposition to austerity is growing despite their legal tricks, to continue the fight against contracts imposed by the now defunct Bill 115, to push the the trade union bureaucracy and the NDP into action, and to follow the lead of Quebec students and Chicago teachers by organizing rank-and-file movements that can beat austerity.

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