Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teachers’ protests cancelled

It was a confusing morning for parents in Rainy River District given many had gone to bed last night thinking today’s planned protest by elementary teachers had closed local schools.
While schools did remain closed today, an early-morning ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board deemed the walkout an “unlawful strike” and saw teachers reporting to work as usual.

“We respect the OLRB’s decision and will comply fully with the ruling,” Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), said in a new release issued at 3:15 a.m.
“Unfortunately, this decision came too late for us to be in a position to adequately ensure student safety and to communicate with our community,” the Rainy River District School Board noted on its website.
“The [board] made a commitment to advise to parents about the status of school closures in a timely manner and as of last night, schools remained closed,” it added.
“We believe that was the right decision based on the information available at that time.”
This morning’s icy conditions also added confusion for parents, with some buses being cancelled to those schools that were unaffected by
today’s planned teachers’ protest (i.e., high schools and Catholic schools).
The ETFO had planned the one-day political protest aimed at the government and education minister for invoking Bill 115.
They did not believe it to be an illegal strike based on past political protests directed at the government, Hammond noted.
“We have said all along that this government cannot be allowed to override the fundamental rights of working Ontarians,” he said.
“In this instance, the OLRB has provided direction and we will abide by that.
“However, we still have a situation where the terms and conditions of our members’ employment have been dictated through a disgraceful misuse of government power,” Hammond added.
“It cannot be business as usual in the education sector,” he warned.
In related news, due to the OLRB ruling, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has cancelled the walkout it had planned for next Wednesday (Jan. 16).
If they did not comply with the ruling, teachers could have faced fines of up to $2,000 each.
Trade unions that engage in illegal strike activity can face penalties of up to $25,000 under the province’s labour laws.
The unions accused outgoing premier Dalton McGuinty of provoking the scheduled walkouts by using a law they say is unconstitutional to force two-year contracts on 126,000 teachers and education workers.
ETFO said the majority of its members voted for a one-day protest, but had no plans for other walkouts.
The government said it had no choice but to impose the contracts, which cut benefits and froze most teachers’ wages, to battle the province’s $14.4-billion deficit.
McGuinty has promised to repeal the law—which four unions are challenging in court—by the end of the month.
“Once again, we are calling on whoever is elected premier to meet with us and have respectful discussions to restore positive relations in a manner that is fair and respectful,” said Hammond.

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