Ontario education workers say they will return to work in response to Premier Doug Ford’s pledge to repeal legislation that imposed a four-year contract on the union and return to bargaining.
Ryan Bird, spokesman for the Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest board, said that schools will be open on Tuesday.
About 55,000 workers represented by Canadian Union of Public Employees’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions walked off the job on Friday and Monday in defiance of the province’s legislation and use of the Charter’s notwithstanding clause to take away the union’s right to strike and challenge the contract. This prompted many school boards to shut their doors for two days.
Surrounded by leaders of private and public sector unions at a press conference Monday afternoon, OSBCU president Laura Walton said the union received written notice from the government that it will rescind the legislation, known as Bill 28, if the workers return to the job.
“We hope that this gesture is met with the same good faith by this government in a new proposal at the bargaining table as soon as possible,” she said. “We’re here waiting right now, the time is ticking.”
Earlier on Monday, Mr. Ford said his government was left “no choice” but to invoke the notwithstanding clause after the union issued a five-day strike notice in order to keep students in class after two years of pandemic-related learning disruptions.
“We didn’t make the decision to introduce the legislation lightly,” he said. “It’s an unprecedented situation that required unprecedented solutions.”
Asked if he would pledge not to use the notwithstanding clause, known as Section 33, again in a labour disruption, Mr. Ford declined to answer.
“I am not going to answer hypothetical questions,” Mr. Ford said. “I don’t like using Section 33. Everybody knows I don’t like it.”
The legislature, which is not scheduled to sit this week, has not yet been recalled to repeal the bill.
CAROLINE ALPHONSO, EDUCATION REPORTER
JEFF GRAY, QUEEN’S PARK REPORTER
DUSTIN COOK,QUEEN’S PARK REPORTER
The Globe and Mail, November 7, 2022