Ontario Catholic teachers agree to wage freeze, reduced sick leave

Deal puts pressure on other teachers’ unions to return to negotiations

Ontario’s 43,000 Catholic school teachers have reached a tentative agreement with the province, Education Minister Lauren Broten announced on July 5.

The teachers have agreed to a wage freeze for the duration of the two-year agreement, along with a 1.5 per cent pay cut in the form of three unpaid professional development days in year two of the agreement. This is so “younger teachers will continue to be recognized through the grid for their experience and additional qualifications,” the government said.

The number of available sick days will also be cut in half to 10 and teachers will no longer be allowed to bank them year-over-year.

“It has been a tough road,” Broten said at a Toronto press conference, “but I’m pleased that after months of difficult talks, we were able to reach an agreement with the OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association).”

This agreement lays the foundation for the next round of bargaining for Ontario Catholic school teachers, the OECTA said in a press release.

"We continued discussions, even when other unions left the table, because we believed that negotiating was the best way to secure a fair and reasonable agreement for our members — and we believe we have achieved that goal," said OECTA president Kevin O'Dwyer.

The deal puts pressure on the province’s other teachers’ unions, who have walked out of bargaining sessions because of the province’s demands.

“Today’s agreement will serve as a road map for local bargaining for all boards,” she said. “We need school boards and unions to meet as an immediate priority and to work to negotiate settlements over the summer that reflect our fiscal and classroom priorities.”

The province will save $250 million in the first year of the agreement and $540 million in the second, provided all teachers’ unions follow suit, Broten said.

Ontario is asking its elementary, high school and French teachers to accept a wage freeze, amend their salary grids, reduce sick days and eliminate the payout of banked sick days at retirement.

Ontario school boards have a $1.7-billion liability in the form of the banked sick leave, Broten said.

The province has hinted it will legislate the wage freeze if it is not accepted.

All contracts with teachers and school support staff in the province will expire on Aug 31, 2012, which means those they will be in a legal strike position Sept. 1.

A day of protest is already planned for the new school year.

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