The government’s new School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, which passed last year, has become the subject of controversy. Secondary school teachers across Ontario have been on strike for multiple weeks keeping approximately 70,000 students out of the classroom.
The three school boards have taken this issue of these local strike’s legality to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). The school boards sought a declaration that the local strikes in Durham, Peel, and Sudbury violate the new bargaining system as they are striking over provincially negotiated issues. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) rejected this argument on the basis that the law does not specifically dictate the scope of issues which can be the subject of strike activity on a local level.
The highly anticipated decision was released on May 26, 2015 after taking longer than expected due to the significant implications it will have on the bargaining process for school boards and teachers’ unions across the province. In the decision, OLRB Chair Bernard Fishbein granted a declaration in favour of the school boards proclaiming the local strikes in contravention of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, and has ordered the secondary school teachers to cease and desist their unlawful strike for a two week moratorium. Although the order has forced teachers back into the classroom, local strikes are permitted to resume after the expiry of the two week order. “Stay tuned” as the situation continues to develop.
This article was written with the assistance of Nicole Buchanan, summer student.