Legislation to force striking teachers back to class

Back-to-work legislation may get Ontario students back in their seats but it would also spark further teacher unrest, warn supporters.

The six-week teachers strike in Ontario will soon come to a close after controversial back-to-work legislation was tabled yesterday afternoon but unions aren’t happy and critics say it could easily cause further unrest.

“Angry. In a word, that’s the easiest thing for me to say,” Dave Barrowclough, president of Durham’s District 13 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, expressed his frustration after hearing the news.

His union local is one of three affected by the Protecting the School Year Act which is expected to pass later this week, after the NDP refused to give consent for debate on Monday, further stalling the process.

Wynne told reporters on Monday she was "very disappointed" with the lack of NDP consent, which stopped the legislation from being passed in one day.

Education minister Liz Sandals said the legislation was a last resort, after the Education Relations Commission confirmed the school year was in jeopardy.

“Our decision to introduce back-to-work has not been taken lightly," Sandals insisted Monday. "We respect our teachers and their right to strike but this is about the government prioritizing, above all else, our students.”

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation have accused the Wynne government of taking the easy way out and say it “would rather legislate than negotiate.”

"Nothing positive can ever come out of a legislated curtailment of a union's fundamental right to bargain freely and to withdraw services when necessary," said Paul Elliott, the president of the union.

"It's clear to us that the minister's decision to ask the Education Relations Commission for a recommendation was nothing more than political cover for a government that has no real commitment to the bargaining process."

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