Teacher talks: OECTA union reaches tentative agreement
Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, August 25, 2015 8:34AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 1:52PM EDT
TORONTO -- Details of a tentative agreement reached Tuesday between the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and school boards were not made public, but Education Minister Liz Sandals suggested it includes pay raises.
The deal with English Catholic teachers follows last week's tentative agreement with high school teachers, but the province still needs agreements with elementary and Francophone teachers as well as with other education workers and support staff.
"Both tentative agreements are net zero agreements," said Sandals. "What that means is that any salary increases are offset in other areas within the collective agreement."
Sandals refused to say exactly where the savings would come from.
The Liberal government insisted it would not fund salary increases for teachers or any public sector workers until it eliminates an $11.9 million deficit, which it is scheduled to do in 2017-18.
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of a briefing on last week's deal with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, which calls for a one per cent lump sum payment followed by raises of 1.5 per cent plus another paid professional day.
The unions all stay in touch with each other throughout the negotiations, said Sandals.
"As you can anticipate, once unions think somebody got a pay raise, they like to have a pay raise too," she said.
Sandals said the government did not cave in to teachers' demands, and insisted the Liberals never asked school boards to raise the limit on class sizes.
"What I want to make absolutely clear is that we have not changed class size in either agreement," she said.
The English Catholic teachers agreed to suspend a work-to-rule campaign while its members prepare to vote on Tuesday's tentative agreement. The union had begun to work-to-rule at Bishop Belleau high school in Moosonee, where classes started weeks earlier than most schools, but that job action was suspended immediately.
"We worked hard to address the concerns of our members and believe this agreement will protect them as well as the quality of education in our schools," OECTA president Ann Hawkins said in a statement.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation is scheduled to return to bargaining Sept. 1, and has threatened to ramp up a work-to-rule campaign that started last spring if there's no deal when classes begin a week later. ETFO president Sam Hammond said elementary teachers won't participate in field trips or parent-teacher meetings, but they also won't suspend extracurricular activities, at least not at the start of the school year.
The union representing Francophone teachers in Ontario was scheduled to return to contract negotiations on Wednesday.
Ontario's 130,000 teachers have been without contracts for a full year, and all four unions -- even those with tentative agreements -- must still negotiate local contracts with their school boards. The government set up a new, two-tier bargaining process that includes both provincial and local rounds of negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Union of Public Employees has asked for a no board report -- the last step before moving to a legal strike position -- on behalf of 55,000 other education workers in Ontario schools.
CUPE says there have been too few bargaining days for the educational assistants, administrators, custodians, trades people, library technicians, early childhood educators, IT specialists and speech pathologists that it represents.