Wynne government yet to take action on school strikes

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Education Minister Liz Sandals

Education Minister Liz Sandals


One week after Education Minister Liz Sandals first raised concerns that the academic year of public high school students in Peel, Durham and Sudbury could be at risk, the process that would return them to class was still inching along Friday.

The strike by the Durham district public high school teachers enters its sixth week Monday, and the other two boards are not far behind.

“My contention (is) that we need kids in the school,” Wynne said Friday. “I feel an enormous amount of urgency to get that done.”

As of Friday, there was no negotiated settlement in sight, the Education Relations Commission had yet to rule on whether the student year was in jeopardy as required for back-to-work legislation and the Ontario Labour Relations Board was still trying to figure out if the strikes are even legal.

Wynne has said she would consider back-to-work legislation for teachers, and suggested she was even prepared to bring the Ontario legislature back over a weekend if necessary to pass a bill.

“As soon as we get a ruling, or we get a deal... either one of those, we’re going to act as quickly as we can,” she said.

However, another time-gobbler appeared on the radar Friday, as Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pointed out her party does not like back-to-work laws.

While the Ontario Liberals have the majority votes needed to move legislation through the House, the Ontario NDP in the past have managed to slow up the process with procedural wrangling.

“We traditionally don’t support back-to-work legislation over all,” Horwath said. “We haven’t seen any legislation yet, we haven’t heard what the government’s intentions are. We’re taking a wait-and-see approach.”

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) members are on the picket line in Durham, Peel and Sudbury, and in a work-to-rule campaign in Halton and Ottawa.

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has an administrative work-to-rule campaign underway in all public elementary schools in the province, and its leadership has warned it could escalate the job actions. 

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