Striking secondary school teachers in Ontario returned to work on May 27 after the provincial government imposed back-to-work legislation. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) called the legislation a “blatant infringement of teachers’ constitutionally-protected right to strike.”
A branch of the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled the strikes by high school teachers in the Sudbury-area Rainbow District, Peel Region and Durham Region put the school year in jeopardy after more than 70,000 students were kept from class for several weeks.
The ETFO compared the recent legislation to Bill 115, which allowed the province to impose labour contracts on public school teachers in 2012, limiting their ability to strike.
Bill 115 was repealed in January 2013.
“This is a legal strike about local issues,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond. “The fact that the Protecting the School Year Act makes strike action on both central and local issues illegal for these locals goes far beyond the pretext of protecting the school year for students. We went through this with Bill 115 with the government legislating instead of negotiating.”
While the back-to-work legislation does not affect ETFO’s current work-to-rule strike action, the union said legislating teachers back to work will only add to the dysfunctional bargaining culture.
“Imposing back-to-work legislation is not a move forward toward resolution – only negotiation is,” Hammond said.