One-day protest planned by Ont. teachers is illegal: premier
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 12:57PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 9, 2013 9:55PM EST
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday he will try to stop elementary school teachers from staging what he calls an illegal strike on Friday.
The teachers announced they will stage a one-day “political protest” over the government’s recent decision to impose new collective agreements on them.
But McGuinty said the teachers are no longer in a legal strike position now that labour agreements have been enforced. He said his government will ask for a cease-and-desist order from the Ontario Labour Relations Board to prevent the protests.
"Teachers do not want to do anything that's illegal," McGuinty said.
He urged them not to take part in the protest, saying the matter should be “settled in court and not in our schools.”
Education Minister Laurel Broten also urged teachers and their union leaders not to break the law. Broten said it’s up to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to decide if or how striking teachers will be penalized.
The decision to shutter the schools came mere minutes after the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said it will follow through on a one-day protest, insisting it’s not a strike.
Late last year, ETFO’s members had overwhelmingly voted in favour of the protest if the Liberal government used Bill 115 to impose contracts on the thousands of educators who had yet to ratify a contract by the Dec. 31, 2012 deadline.
Broten then used the controversial bill to impose the contracts -- which froze wages for two years and put an end to the banking of sick days to be used at retirement – on Jan. 3, since a number of agreements were outstanding.
School boards in Toronto, York, Peel, Halton and Durham have confirmed they will close their doors to students as they won’t have adequate numbers of staff to supervise.
Several schools boards have sent out letters to parents, asking them to make alternative childcare arrangements for Friday, as well as contact care providers at school-based centres for availability.
ETFO President Sam Hammond told reporters Wednesday the government ignored the union’s promise to hold off on any action as long as the Liberals didn’t use anti-strike law to impose contracts before the next premier is chosen on Jan. 26.
“This government, this education minister, refused to take us up on that and went ahead with a disgraceful use of government power on Jan. 3 and imposed terms and conditions on our members,” Hammond said.
He stressed Wednesday that the union has not called for a strike.
“This is not strike action: this is a day of political protest and that protest is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada,” he said.
He added that should teachers face penalties, including possible monetary fines, the union will deal with it.
“There is a whole process, regardless of what the minister says, in terms of how you move forward with this,” Hammond said.
He would not say whether teachers would be demonstrating or simply be absent from the classroom Friday, as union staff are still working out the logistics.
Hammond said teachers are not backing down until the next provincial election.
“This has nothing to do with revenge or anger; this has to do with principle positions in terms of democracy in this province and in this country,” he said. “You cannot trample people’s democratic rights like this.”
Broten has promised to repeal Bill 115 by the end of January. But Hammond has said the damage has been done for the union’s 76,000 members.
On Wednesday, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation also said it would stage a one-day protest on Jan. 16 if Bill 115 is not repealed.
The province’s high school teachers are boycotting extracurricular activities in response to the legislation.
With files from the Canadian Press