Teacher protests averted, but fight to go on
HALTON - Public high school and elementary teachers are no longer protesting during school hours, but their fight against the provincial government is not over yet.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Catholic teachers, support staff and more protested outside of MPP Kevin Flynn's office in October 2012.
Public high school and elementary teachers are no longer protesting during school hours, but their fight against the provincial government is not over yet.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) — representing 76,000 public elementary school teachers and support workers across the province — planned a massive one-day protest for today (Friday), which would have forced public school boards to close their elementary schools. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) — with its 50,000 members in Ontario high schools — planned a similar protest for Wednesday, Jan. 16.
The planned protests were quashed by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), which deemed the labour actions as unlawful, after a 13-hour hearing that began on Thursday afternoon. The OLRB hearing was called after Premier Dalton McGuinty challenged the potential labour disruption.
Shortly after the verdict was announced at approximately 4 a.m. today, the ETFO called off its one-day political protest and the union informed its members to report to school. The OSSTF also cancelled its Jan. 16 protest.
“We’re disappointed by the Ontario Labour Relation Board’s decision, particularly because it was involving the Labour Relations Act,” said ETFO Halton president Marg Macfarlane.
“We’ve always wanted to be able to follow the Ontario Labour Relations Act. It’s concerning us because the government chose to ignore the act with respect to bargaining and now has chosen to make use of the act when it would be helpful for their purposes… It’s been a rather selective use of the Labour Relations Act.”
The OSSTF District 20 (Halton) president Brad Fisher was also disappointed with the results of the OLRB hearing.
“This is a huge blight on our democracy because Bill 115, section 14, prohibited the Ontario Labour Relations Board from considering constitutional issues as they normally would have,” he said. “Now, this will require the courts to look at it because this government has hamstrung the Ontario Labour Relations Board for its own political purposes.”
So while the school-day protests have been averted, the teachers’ fight against the Province is not yet finished.
Fisher said the OSSTF will pursue the matter in court and teachers will hold mass rallies.
“The political protest against this government will continue, but we will not be doing a political protest during the school day. It was made quite clear by the OLRB that they consider it illegal,” he said.
Macfarlane said the ETFO will continue its discussions and review the situation on how to move forward.
There isn’t anything definite at this moment,” she said.
Parents and students should not expect schools to return to their usual, pre-Bill 115, course.
“Given what has happened and what is happening now and what has just occurred, all of it means, we’re certainly agreeing that we are not going on with business as usual. It cannot continue as business as usual,” Macfarlane said.
Fisher said the government can impose laws and contracts, but it cannot impose goodwill, and much of what teachers do in school, and outside of the classrooms, are goodwill actions that are not required by contracts.
“Many of the things are done out of the goodwill and good hearts of the teachers and many teachers now feel that they’d have to reconsider whether they continue to do some of the things they used to do,” he said. “You can’t impose goodwill on people.”
Fisher also noted the labour dispute is not about money. He said the OSSTF attempted to negotiate and offered zero per cent wage increases as early as last February.
“What infuriates us is the lack of collective bargaining rights and the right to be treated with respect and to sit down as adults to work out what the problems are,” he said.
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