Ontario won't stop one-day teachers' strikes
Published Thursday, December 6, 2012 7:08AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 6, 2012 1:43PM EST
Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten says she will reluctantly allow elementary teachers at two of the province’s school boards to hold a one-day strike on Monday.
But if job action by elementary school teachers with the Avon Maitland and Ontario North East school boards stretches beyond a day, Broten said she’s ready to shut any additional strikes down.
“I have the necessary legal documents drafted and ready to end any strike action that would put student success and safety at risk,” she told reporters Thursday morning.
The permission doesn’t end with the two northern Ontario boards. One-day walkouts will be allowed at all school boards as long as the province is notified 72 hours beforehand, Broten said.
The job action that’s been threatened at the Ontario boards is in protest of Bill 115, which gives the province the ability to impose collective agreements and put an end to teachers’ strikes and lockouts.
The union representing teachers, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, asserts that the legislation is so restrictive, it stymies any possible negotiations.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Broten said she hopes teachers will soon return to the bargaining table.
“After Monday’s job action, it will become clear that nothing has changed,” she said. “Our province will still face a $14-billion deficit. We still need our teachers to take a two-year pay freeze so that we can protect full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes and 10,000 teaching positions.”
Broten declined to elaborate on what kind of legal documents the government has drafted.
In a statement issued Thursday, departing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said that he’s “disappointed” by the ETFO’s decision to press on with the one-day strikes.
McGuinty said he would prefer to see union leadership back at the bargaining table. He alleged that ETFO has spent less than an hour in the last 10 months negotiating with the province.
The elementary teachers’ union has until Dec. 31 to negotiate a settlement, he said.
Pointing towards the ongoing education dispute, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak questioned the reigning Liberal Party’s leadership Thursday.
“It’s unbelievable. Who’s running the province of Ontario today? I mean, is there any government in this province?” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns urged the Liberals to repeal Bill 115.
“(Broten) has created a situation of instability, of conflict in the schools and it’s going to continue to roll until they take the actions necessary to settle,” he said.
Earlier this week, Ontario public elementary school teachers voted on whether a one-day strike would be appropriate if Broten uses Bill 115 to impose an agreement or shut down strikes.
According to the ETFO, 92 per cent of respondents voted in favour of a one-day protest. More than 46,000 public elementary school teachers participated in the online survey, the ETFO said.
“Teachers, occasional teachers, education support personnel, professional support personnel and designated early childhood educators are saying they will lead the protest against Bill 115 if the education minister denies them their fundamental rights,” ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement Wednesday.
But while union leadership is threatening job action, Broten’s counterparts at Queen’s Park are urging her to use Bill 115 to end the labour dispute once and for all.
Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod has accused Broten of remaining silent on the dispute, and alleged that the minister is shirking duties associated with the education portfolio.
“I feel obligated as Official Opposition critic to remind you of your responsibilities as minister and the tools that you have at your disposal within Bill 115 to re-impose some semblance of order in our schools,” MacLeod wrote in an open letter to Broten.
Ontario’s public high school teachers will not be taking part in Monday’s one-day rotating strikes, but do plan to protest Bill 115 by withdrawing from extracurricular activities next week.
According to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, its 60,000 some-odd members will show up for work 15 minutes before classes and leave immediately after their scheduled end-of-day duties.