BREAKING: Labour Board Rules ETFO Protest is Unlawful
The meeting took over 12 hours, but in the end, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled that a planned walkout Friday by the province's public elementary school teachers is an illegal strike.
The decision came down just before 4 a.m. on Friday, and only a few hours before thousands of educators were due to stage a one-day walkout in protest of the governing Liberals' decision to impose two-year contracts under a controversial anti-strike law.
At least eight school boards decided to close their schools in anticipation of the protest, according to the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. They were: Toronto, York, Halton, Kawartha Pine Ridge, Grand Erie, Greater Essex, Ottawa and Renfrew. Durham and Peel Regions had said that schools would be closed, but also asked parents to check for updates come morning.
The ruling may also alter the fate of a similar walkout planned for Jan. 16 by the union representing high-school teachers.
Under Ontario's labour laws, engaging in illegal strike activity can carry a penalty of up to $2,000 per person and up to $25,000 for a trade union.
ETFO and other supporters argued during the hearing that it wasn't a strike, but a political protest that's protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Government lawyers, who asked for the cease-and-desist order, countered that any withdrawal of services would be illegal, as the teachers were no longer in a legal strike position once the contracts were imposed.
(Some files by Canadian Press)