TORONTO - Branding the job action planned by Ontario teachers illegal, labour board chairman Bernard Fishbein issued a cease and desist order minutes before 4 a.m. Friday morning.
The order means that 76,000 teachers represented by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario will have to report for work instead of engaging in a one-day protest which would have shuttered many schools across Ontario and left parents scrambling.
Due to the late hour in which the decision was made, there was a great deal of confusion as to which school boards would remain open.
Initially, the Toronto District School Board and York Region District School Board said they couldn’t plan around the uncertainty and would close - but after 6 a.m. both boards announced they would open but without bus service. Halton District School Board announced it would be open at 7:20 a.m., and said there will be school bus service but it may be delayed.
Ontario school boards open include:
Toronto (buses will not run)
York (buses will not run)
Halton (buses may be delayed)
“The minister points me to the well established jurisprudence of this board that a 'political strike' during the term of a collective agreement … is still an unlawful strike under the act,” Fishbein wrote in a six-page decision.
The bleary-eyed chair read from the statement early Friday, nearly a full 13 hours after the hearing began.
He said he was not swayed by ETFO lawyer Howard Goldblatt’s argument that the strike should be exempted from the province’s labour laws because it would limit free speech.
Goldblatt told the board the protest was not a strike and was intended as a way to send a message to the Ontario Liberal leadership candidates ahead of the party's convention Jan. 25-27, where delegates will decide who will be Ontario's next premier.
ETFO Sam Hammond told media after the ruling that he will advise his members to report for work Friday morning.
Teachers will not defy the order, he said.
“We do respect the decision that was made here over the course of the last 12 to 13 hours by the chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board,” he said.
Hammond said it had been a difficult day but said labour decisions should be made in place like the labour board. He did not rule out an appeal.
Education Minister Laurel Broten issued a statement lauding the order.
“Now teachers understand from the Ontario Labour Relations Board that what they were being asked to do by their union was to break the law. Teachers are law abiding and now that they know the facts, I know that they will report to work this morning.”