Skip to main content

Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten during a meeting with Globe and Mail reporters at the Globe and Mail building on Jan. 7.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

As elementary teachers prepare to walk off the job on Friday, a hearing into whether they are staging an illegal strike continued late into the night.

The Ontario government asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to declare that the one-day protest by teachers is an illegal strike. But by late Thursday night, the board was still hearing legal arguments. The government is facing the closing of elementary schools for the second time this academic year.

"Somewhere in the neighbourhood of a million children won't be going to school," Robert Charney, a lawyer for the education ministry, told the hearing.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Charney argued that the one-day protest is illegal under Bill 115, the controversial legislation that bans teachers from striking.

"When teachers take a day of protest, it results in the closure of schools," he said. "We know that that's a strike."

Lawyers representing the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario argued at the hearing that the protest is not an illegal strike. They said the courts are the proper forum to deal with the matter.

But labour board chairman Bernard Fishbein said he is not prepared to refer the matter to the courts, where a hearing would not take place until September.

ETFO lawyer Howard Goldblatt said there are no plans by elementary teachers to hold further days of protest. He suggested that relations between teachers and the government could improve when a new Liberal leader is chosen this month.

"We are hoping there will be a fundamental sea change in the way the government addresses the sector," Mr. Goldblatt said.

Mr. Fishbein said ETFO's pledge not to stage further protests is based on the hope that Premier Dalton McGuinty's successor will review Bill 115.

Story continues below advertisement

"I have no way of knowing whether that is an overly optimistic assessment or not," Mr. Fishbein said.

Teachers are angry with the government for introducing Bill 115, which set a Dec. 31 deadline for bargaining, and enabled the province to impose a contract last week.

Elementary and high school teachers have withdrawn their participation in sports teams and clubs, with union leaders indicating these activities could be withheld until the fall of 2014, the duration of the contract.

High school teachers also plan to walk off the job on Jan. 16.

Mr. McGuinty appealed to elementary teachers earlier on Thursday to resolve their differences with his government outside the classroom and ignore their union leaders' calls to walk off the job.

"I understand that we have some differences. I respect their right to give expression to those differences," Mr. McGuinty said. "Let's leave the students out of it."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. McGuinty also suggested that the militant stand of OETF president Sam Hammond might not necessarily reflect the views of his members, who want to "give their all" to students.

"I think executives have to be careful that they don't allow a gap to grow between them and their thinking and where teachers are on the front lines," he said. "I think teachers on the front lines want to teach. They want to give their best to students."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies