Confusion reigns as Ontario school boards react to late strike ruling

Matt Coutts
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario President Sam Hammond speaks to reporters in Toronto early Friday morning, after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that a planned one-day walkout by teachers across the province would be unlawful.

Congratulations to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which essentially managed to implement a successful political protest without taking to the picket lines, challenging the Ontario Labour Relations Board or conceding the high ground in any way.

The teachers’ union had full intentions of holding a strike today, but a quick call by the Liberal government to the labour board had it declared unlawful, after a 12 hour session. ETFO President Sam Hammond agreed to call it off.

That’s the end of the story, right? Not really, considering the labour board reached its decision at 3:30 a.m. this morning. Chaos rules the day.

School boards were left with only a handful of sleep-deprived hours to decide and announce whether they would hold classes on Friday. CBC reports that boards scrambled to react to the late decision.

Toronto District School Board chair Chris Bolton made the decision to cancel classes in the city at 6:10 a.m. Ten minutes later he announced classes were back on.

Other school boards similarly rushed to announce whether schools would be open. Most will. Others, including the Ottawa-Carlton District School Board, threw up their hands and cancelled the day. Students who do go to school will be kept otherwise busy.

[ Related: Teachers at work as most Ottawa-area classes cancelled ]

Meantime, the union that was staunchly ready to protest the recently enacted Bill 115, and all it strike-blocking, salary-freezing power, has told its members to go to work as usual. They want to protest not break the law, after all.

Hammond said in a statement:

We respect the provisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Act – something we have requested the minister and the government to do for almost a year.

Let’s pause and look at why the ETFO, or any union, would hold a protest. They get attention, they cause confusion, the show solidarity and they put pressure on management.

Check marks across the board today.

Parents had to wake up this morning not knowing whether they were taking their kids to class or the office. Many will be sent to day camps, regardless of whether classes are held.

[ Related: Ontario parents scrambling after teachers call off strike ]

The union, meantime, has shown members were willing to protest the controversial legislation. They hold serve, and even uphold labour laws while repeating their claim that the government did not

And best of all, teachers can go to class instead of picketing in miserable weather.

The union will not be celebrating the labour board’s ruling, but they should be. They are getting the best of both worlds today.

Despite the ruling, ETFO has managed to hold a pretty successful political protest.