OLRB rules teachers must come back to work

January 11, 2013

Around 4 a.m. this morning, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) ruled that the walkout planned by elementary teachers was illegal. As a result, the teachers planning the action must come back to work, and the schools in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Halton boards will be open today.

As a parent whose child is going to a public school, I felt delighted when I heard the news. Preparing for a child’s staying home or going somewhere else created a lot of headaches for me, and I guess for most parents with school-age children too.

I am a little puzzled why this decision came so late though. It had been days in the news that the elementary teachers were planning for the walkout, or strike, or political demonstration. The Government’s position was also clear since the beginning: no matter what the action was called, it was illegal and teachers must work.

Up till late night yesterday (January 10), words were on the street that no matter what OLRB’s ruling was, teachers would just not work today. Therefore, we were well prepared for the school closure. While the news this morning is heartening, I am a bit upset by why the decision did not come earlier.

The OLRB hearing began around 3 pm yesterday, and it lasted around 13 hours. I have to salute the OLRB staff members and counsel of both sides for their hard work. I felt even better that the union, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, respected OLRB’s decision and decided to re-open the schools. But all this came a bit too late. In addition to some parents had to change their day plans, again, some school bus services had been cancelled and would not be up and running today.

This drama and the inconvenience could have been all avoided. Why did the Government not bring its application for the cease-and-desist order earlier? Could this matter be heard earlier?

While I have no answers to the questions above, today’s story proves this: Our labour dispute resolution system works, but it should, and hopefully can, work better.


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