By Richard Leitner, News Staff
Hamilton public elementary schools remained open today after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled early this morning that a planned walkout by teachers constituted an illegal strike.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario notified members to report to work, allowing the public board to reverse plans to cancel all classes.
“We apologize for the short notice, but the timing of this announcement was beyond our control,” board spokesperson Rob Faulkner said in a media release at 5:35 a.m. “We look forward to welcoming students to school today.”
The province successfully sought an injunction to stop what teachers maintained was a one-day “political protest” against the use of Bill 115 to impose contracts on them, an action high school teachers had also planned to take on Jan. 16.
Such walkouts are now deemed illegal and teachers could face fines of up to $2,000 if they ignore an injunction.
In his ruling, OLRB chair Bernard Fishbein ordered ETFO to post notices for the next 30 days in all elementary schools advising members that such walkouts are illegal strikes.
Teachers could face fines of up to $2,000 if they ignore an injunction.
“We respect the OLRB’s decision and will comply fully with the ruling,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a news release.
“We did not believe this to be an illegal strike based on past political protests directed at the government. We respect the provisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Act – something we have requested the (education) minister and the government to do for almost a year.”
Prior to the ruling, public board chair Tim Simmons said the board didn’t “have a perspective” on whether the walkouts were illegal and expressed hope the province will find a way to the ongoing conflict with public school teachers.
“We don’t really have a say on what’s illegal or legal; that’s got to come from the ministry or the provincial government. We just react to maintain safety in our schools,” he said.
“We hope the government and our employee groups can come to an understanding so that we can maintain the educational process for our students without too many disruptions.”