Teachers unions agree to resume talks

July 10, 2012 - All News

Two teacher unions are meeting with the province just days after the Ontario Catholic teachers reached a two-year agreement, the Star has learned.
“Discussions will happen next week,” said a spokesperson for Minister of Education Laurel Broten.
Both the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the association representing the province’s French teachers confirmed meetings are scheduled for next week.
“I can confirm that AEFO will be meeting with Ministry representatives next week to get more information on the agreement between the province and (Catholic teachers),” Marie-Élisabeth Brunet of the Association des Enseignantes et des Enseignants Franco-Ontariens (AEFO) told the Star in an email.
“However, this is not a return to the bargaining table.”
Last week, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation told the Star his union would be willing to meet with the province, if invited.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario — now the lone holdout among teacher unions — has not offered a similar olive branch, and has instead said it will proceed with bargaining with individual school boards.
The two-year deal between the province and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association was previously criticized by all education unions as unworkable.
It calls for a general wage freeze, three unpaid days off and an end to banking sick days.
On social media, it was denounced as a blow to union solidarity, and was seen to put immense pressure on the other unions to return to talks.
On Tuesday, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak criticized what he called a “sweet deal” for Catholic teachers, who are still in line for a $7,000 raise over the next two years — not the wage freeze touted by the province.
Hudak also warned that if he were premier, teachers wouldn’t get such a lucrative settlement in times of austerity.
“The teacher union leadership needs to get a grip on the reality facing the province of Ontario and average families,” Hudak told reporters.
“OECTA got a pretty sweet deal. Teachers will still move up the grid, which means teachers are getting a raise of $7,000 over the two years of the agreement,” he said.
“So since when did a $7,000 raise become a pay freeze? The bottom line is that this is a phony pay freeze and I’m disappointed the government has signed this.”
The PC leader, who is pushing new labour policies to strip unions of some of their powers, noted “most families out there would kill for a $7,000 increase in their incomes.”
“So this is a phony pay freeze. I mean only in (Premier) Dalton McGuinty’s world would a $7,000 pay increase be called a pay freeze.”
The deal with the Catholic teachers does not provide an overall wage increase, but still allows teachers to move up the salary “grid” that provides raises based on qualifications and experience.
It was financed by three unpaid days off in the second year of the contract.
The union also agreed to 10 sick days a year — down from the current 20 — that can no longer be banked.
The deal also puts an end to big payouts of unused sick days at retirement, which can amount to half a year’s salary, at the handful of Catholic boards to still offer the perk.
— Torstar News Service