In what has been a confusing morning for parents, both the elementary school teachers’ walkout (planned for today), and the secondary school teachers’ walkout (planned for Wednesday) have been cancelled. Read about the announcement of the OSSTF walkout here.
In a 4 a.m. ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (an independent, quasi-judicial arbiter in this case between the government and the teachers’ unions), the walkout planned by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) was declared illegal. Minutes later, ETFO cancelled the strike. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) followed suit and cancelled their walkout, which was planned for Wednesday 16 January.
This means that, as of now, schools are planned to remain open next Wednesday for students at Garneau and across the board.
According to OSSTF Branch President James Jan, ETFO lawyers attempted to move the discussions out of the labour board and into a court. This was turned down by the chair of the labour board.
It is important to note the relationship between the ETFO and the OSSTF. At the time of its announcement, Mr. Jan cited the OSSTF’s walkout as a partial support of the ETFO counterpart.
According to Mr. Jan, two things have changed since the walkout announcement on Wednesday. The first change is the labour board’s ruling, which confirms the illegal nature of any possible walkouts.
“We’ve been fighting Bill 115 for the right to go to the labour relations board. For us to say that we won’t respect the board’s ruling would be hypocritical.” Jan told The Reckoner.
He also cited the loss of popular support associated with the situation: “What would the public think if the teachers were to walk off the job in an illegal walkout?”
Instead, Mr. Jan said that OSSTF and ETFO are planning to proceed by appealing in courts of law. “We knew we weren’t going to win this one,” he said, referring to today’s struggle.
According to Mr. Jan, the official reinstitution of voluntary extracurricular activities may now be back on the table. The OSSTF is waiting to see which new Liberal leader is elected before this is further discussed.
Interestingly, while over 80% of Toronto secondary school teachers voted in favour of a walkout, a majority of MGCI teachers voted against it.
“It’s a reflection on the commitment of teachers in this neighbourhood,” Jan said. “There are many schools in which teachers are very dedicated to extracurricular activities: our school is one of them. They see it as an integral part of this neighborhood and this school.”
This statement implies that in voting against the 16 January walkout, MGCI teachers are also expressing dissent for the ban on extracurricular activities.
Principal Goldenberg responded favourably to the morning’s change of events: “I’m happy that the teachers’ unions have decided not to walk off the job.”