Reach deal or face legislation, Ontario tells teachers

Province waits for ratification from Catholic teachers, warns others

The Ontario government is warning local school boards that legislation may be introduced to force a new contract on teachers if boards can’t reach deals with their teachers.

“The start of the school year is fast approaching and we can no longer allow these partners to drag their feet,” Education Minister Laurel Broten said on July 30. “Without newer contracts by fall, there is the probability of a labour disruption.”

The Liberal government wants the boards to reach a new contract with teachers that will freeze wages for two years, a concession it couldn’t make with its Catholic teachers when it reached a deal with them earlier this month.

The government reached an agreement with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) that allows newer teachers to see wage increases, but freezes salaries for the majority of the others. The number of sick days was also reduced to 10 from 20.

Ontario’s other teachers' unions refuse to negotiate with the province, so Broten says it will be up to boards to reach local deals. She would like school boards to use the OECTA agreement as a “roadmap” for their negotiations, she said, refusing to indicate whether the bill would include freeze wages or take over local boards.

If all of Ontario’s teachers agree to the province’s terms, the province will save $250 million in 2012 and 2013, and $540 million the year following. Currently, Ontario school boards face a $1.7-billion shortfall due to banked sick leave.

The deal reached with the OECTA must still be ratified by teachers — something that must be done at the local level. There are concerns Catholic teachers may not approve the province’s offer.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic School District Board recently filed for conciliation after the province cut them out of negotiations. It’s an unusual move because teachers have reached a deal with the province, Mario Iatonna, executive superintendent of business for the board, told The Windsor Star.

“We think legislation will eventually follow the (memorandum of understanding) but at the moment, we are unsure as to the next step so we are proceeding with our own negotiations,” Iatonna told the paper. “The (memorandum of understanding) may have settled it for everyone but we’re not sure and we’re waiting for clarification.”

This is just another attempt to attack teachers, according to OECTA Windsor-Essex secondary school unit president Brian Hogan.

“They are trying to invoke further cuts,” Hogan told the paper. “Normally, one side files for conciliation when an impasse has been reached. We don’t have an impasse because we have not met.”

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