News

High school teachers plan to resume strike June 10

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

OSSTF protest on the front lawn of Queen's Parkon Thursday May 14, 2015. (Toronto Sun files)

OSSTF protest on the front lawn of Queen's Parkon Thursday May 14, 2015. (Toronto Sun files)

TORONTO - 

The Ontario government is expected to pass back-to-work legislation Thursday to prevent public high school teachers from renewing their strike in two weeks.

Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said his members disagree with an Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) decision that their strikes were unlawful, but will abide by its mandated two-week strike moratorium.

“OSSTF/FEESO teachers and occasional teachers at the Durham, Rainbow and Peel District School Boards will, however, resume a full withdrawal of services on June 10,” a news release issued Wednesday states.

The OLRB ruled that the strikes were illegal because the union was attempting to fight provincial issues at the local level.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said her government is not prepared to allow the strike to resume.

A bill to keep teachers on the job until the end of the school year should be law well before the end of the two-week moratorium.

Elliott had told reporters prior to the OLRB ruling that he expected his striking members to heed back-to-work legislation.

The Ontario government introduced the bill this week after receiving an official opinion from the Education Relations Commission that the students’ academic year was at risk, meaning they might not graduate if much more class time was lost.

“The OLRB ruling — while it’s gotten the kids back in the class and that’s a good thing — it actually leaves it open to the teachers to resume their strike on June 10,” Sandals said. “And clearly that’s not acceptable.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath urged Sandals Wednesday to abandon the back-to-work legislation and get back to serious negotiating, arguing the bill is just further inflaming an already difficult labour situation with teachers.

PC MPP Garfield Dunlop said he’s concerned that all students — those attending Catholic, public, elementary, secondary and their French equivalents — could be out of class in September.

“We’re just putting a band-aid solution on this,” Dunlop said, blaming the Ontario Liberal government’s bargaining process for the chaos.

The OSSTF has received support from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) which accused the provincial government of attacking teachers’ right to strike.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said the back-to-work legislation resembles a bill brought in by the government in 2012 that forced teachers to accept contracts.

“Quite clearly, the leopard has not changed its spots,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said.

Ontario teachers have been without a collective agreement since the beginning of the school year.


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