NORTH DURHAM: High school students in Durham Region could be returning to their classrooms as early as this Friday, as the Ontario Liberal government introduced back-to-work legislation on Monday, May 25.
The move comes after a ruling from the Education Relations Commission that the school year is in jeopardy. Premier Kathleen Wynne was hoping to have the legislation fast tracked and passed on Monday, but the NDP did not give consent. Despite her majority, the Liberal government still needs to have consent from the two opposition parties to have it pushed to the voting stage. The earliest that the ruling could pass is this Thursday, May 28. Education Minister Liz Sandals has said that students would return the day after the legislation passes.
OSSTF District 13 President Dave Barrowclough was not surprised that the Ontario government chose this route.
“They did this the last time we collectively bargained,” he said. “They say that they respect the collective bargaining process, but at no point have they stepped in and aided negotiations. We are supposed to have the ability to collectively bargain, but that does not seem to be the case.”
Durham District School Board Chairman Michael Barrett said he wished things had worked out better at the bargaining table between the two sides.
“I’m glad we are finally getting our children in the classroom. It’s not the way that I would have wanted. I would have wanted a negotiated settlement,” he said. “I was proud of the process we put together. We should have all been committed to it. That didn’t happen and I’m disappointed.”
It is believed that the new legislation will force both sides to go through an arbitration process to resolve the labour issues.
OSSTF president Paul Elliott said in a press release that this action “has done nothing to help move negotiations forward” and that it was “nothing more than political cover for a government that has no real commitment to the bargaining process.”