TORONTO—Premier Kathleen Wynne was beaming today after learning the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation reached a tentative contract agreement early in the morning with the province’s school boards.
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association still must reach agreements with unions representing elementary, Catholic, and Francophone teachers but Wynne said the OSSTF deal proves the negotiations work.
“What we said could happen at the table has happened,” she said.
“Of course, we have some other groups that we are now in conversation with, but this is a very significant and happy day in terms of getting our kids back to school.”
No details were announced, and the tentative agreement must be endorsed by local OSSTF leaders at a meeting later this week before it will be presented to teachers for ratification.
OSSTF president Paul Elliott welcomed the deal after his members went a full year without a contract, but warned the union still was trying to get a deal for school support staff.
“We did prevail,” Elliott told union members at a meeting in Ottawa.
“As much as this has been a frustrating year for our teachers, and occasional teacher members and leaders, our frustration over support staff bargaining is even deeper,” he added.
Wynne admitted the negotiations are challenging because of the government’s insistence that it will not fund any salary increases until it eliminates an $11.9-billion deficit, which is scheduled to happened by 2017-18.
But she said she was confident deals will be reached with other unions.
“I’ve been optimistic all along because I know that teachers and support staff want to be in school,” Wynne remarked.
“Each table is separate but it’s a very good thing that we’ve been able to come to one agreement.”
Education minister Liz Sandals said the deal “speaks to the dedication and commitment” of everyone involved.
“We continue to negotiate with all other teachers’ and education workers’ unions at the central table, and are committed to bargaining throughout the remaining weeks of the summer in order to reach agreements at all tables,” she pledged.
The teachers’ unions have warned of co-ordinated job actions if there are no new agreements when classes resume, but none is threatening a full-scale strike at this point.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario doesn’t return to bargaining until Sept. 1.
ETFO president Sam Hammond was expected to outline details of a work-to-rule campaign later today.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association is scheduled to return to bargaining today—the same day its members will begin job action at a high school in Moosonee, which starts classes several weeks earlier than most Ontario schools.