The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and other education unions have won a major court victory at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice today. The court found that the Ontario government’s Bill 115 imposed in the fall of 2012 was a violation of the collective bargaining rights of education unions.
In his decision, Justice Lederer ruled that the passage of the Putting Students First Act infringed upon union members’ rights to meaningful collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also determined that the process the government engaged in was “fundamentally flawed.”
“This is a total vindication of our pursuit of democratic rights on behalf of our members,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “ ETFO and its legal counsel acted as the lead in launching the Charter challenge in the fall of 2012 because, by imposing the terms and conditions of our members’ contract, the Ontario government abrogated teachers’ collective bargaining rights, including their right to strike.”
Bill 115 blatantly interfered with lawful collective bargaining activities in the education sector for three years. It put the actions of the government beyond the review of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, outside the reach of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and even above the courts. In response, the Charter challenge was launched by ETFO as well as the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
Justice Lederer did not comment on a remedy for the parties. The parties are now required to meet to determine a remedy. If they are unable to reach agreement on a remedy, the matter will be referred back to Justice Lederer for a decision.