NIAGARA – Today’s strike at public elementary schools has been called off.
As of 5:50 a.m., the District School Board of Niagara is now reporting its elementary schools will be open for classes as usual.
Buses will be running on a regular schedule to take kids to school, board officials say.
The move – which is bound to confuse some parents who had made other arrangements for their children today – comes as a result of a decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board late Thursday.
A notice by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario to its members says:
“The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has ruled that the Political Protest scheduled to take place on January 11, 2013 violates the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA).
“We will abide by the decision of the OLRB. We respect the provisions of the Act – something we have requested the Minister and government to do for almost a year.
“Monitor your school board website to determine if your school will be open for teachers, DECE, ESP, and PSP members. If your school is open to staff you are required to report to your school or worksite on Friday morning.”
The opposition Progressive Conservatives were quick to comment on the latest development in the showdown between the teachers and the governing Liberals.
In a press release issued around 5:30 a.m. Friday, PC education critic Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean-Carlton, criticised the both the union and the McGuinty government for the current unrest.
“ETFO’s tactics have inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of young students and their parents since the school year began,” wrote MacLeod.
“Today is no different. Even as ETFO complies with the OLRB’s decision, it is too late for students in many communities who will miss class because of the strike threat.”
McLeod continued: “School closures today could have been avoided had the Liberal government acted on previous strikes and threats by union leaders in December, just as the PC Caucus demanded.
“ETFO’s point has now been made at the expense of Ontario’s families and their children, and the Liberals have bent to their demands to repeal Bill 115. The appropriate place now to continue their fight with the Liberals is in the courts and at the ballot box, not in the classrooms of this province.”
Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, issued a statement early Friday saying the union would abide by the decision of the Ontario Labour Board, which deliberated late into the evening Thursday before rendering its verdict.
“We respect the OLRB’s decision and will comply fully with the ruling,” said Hammond.
“We did not believe this to be an illegal strike based on past political protests directed at the government. 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.”
Hammond continued: “We have said all along that this government cannot be allowed to override the fundamental rights of working Ontarians. In this instance, the OLRB has provided direction and we will abide by that. However, we still have a situation where the terms and conditions of our members’ employment have been dictated through a disgraceful misuse of government power. It cannot be business as usual in the education sector.”
Hammond said 92 per cent of ETFO members who cast a ballot in December voted in favour of a one-day political protest should the minister impose new contracts using Bill 115. She did so on Jan. 3.
“This whole situation could have been avoided if the minister of education had accepted our olive branch in December to wait for a new leader to try and find solutions,” added Hammond. “While the current premier refers to other agreements put into place, none of those sectors had their democratic rights trampled through the use of draconian legislation like Bill 115.”
“Once again, we are calling on whoever is elected premier to meet with us and have respectful discussions to restore positive relations in a manner that is fair and respectful.”
This is a breaking news story. Please check back regularly for updates.