The union representing Ontario high school teachers says its members will resume strike action on June 10. However, provincial Education Minister Liz Sandals says legislation will prevent that from happening.

Teachers in the Durham, Peel and Rainbow school boards were forced back to work on Wednesday, after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that the local strikes are unlawful.

The OLRB said the moratorium on strike action will last two weeks. Chair Bernard Fishbein said the time will allow the union to “cleanse” the local strikes of issues like class size, which by law must be dealt with at the “central,” province-wide negotiating table.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation president Paul Elliott said in a statement Wednesday that the three local strikes will resume in two weeks. "We emphatically maintain that these strikes have always been about local issues,” he said.

Peel District School Board Chair Janet McDougald said she was “extremely disappointed” that the union would announce their plan to resume striking so quickly.

“Students have been under considerable stress for the past three weeks,” she added.

McDougald said the board is “more than happy to negotiate with our local OSSTF,” but that it is difficult when province-wide issues like compensation have not been settled.

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals

Minister says legislation will go ahead

Minister Sandals said that back-to-work legislation -- known as Bill 103, or the Protecting the School Year Act -- will make the resumption of strikes in those three boards illegal for the rest of the school year, because the Education Relations Commission had said the school year is in jeopardy.

“The OLRB ruling leaves it open for teachers to resume their strike on June 10 and clearly that’s not acceptable,” Sandals told reporters at Queen’s Park in Toronto.

“My focus this week is to, first of all, make sure that we get the legislation passed so that we make sure the kids who went back to school today stay there.”

Sandals added that the legislation includes “an alternative for those teachers who have lost their right to strike.”

Progressive Conservative education critic Garfield Dunlop, meanwhile, said the legislation is akin to "putting your finger in a dam.”

“(The Liberals) are going around patting themselves on the back this afternoon,” he said. “The reality is … chaos will likely happen after Labour Day this fall.”

Dunlop said he wants the back-to-work bill passed “as quickly as possible.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who does not support the legislation, said moving ahead with it is “throwing fuel on the flames” when the government ought to get back to the bargaining table.

“Now who knows what’s going to happen in a couple weeks’ time?” Horwath added.

Back to school after Ontario strikes

How the school year could be completed

Sandals outlined a number of possible changes to the school year for the 70,000 students at the three affected boards:

  • The 110-credit-hour rule will be waived, meaning credits can still be awarded even if fewer hours than usual are spent in the classroom
  • The minister is open to dropping professional development days and exams days in order to make up for lost instructional time
  • Exams will not be required, and assessment can based instead on interim marks, presentations and other school work
  • Students who want to complete credits online may have the opportunity to do so
  • Students worried about readiness for college or university may be able access online modules this summer to address “gaps” in Grade 12 learning

With files from The Canadian Press