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Teacher talks break down


Despite the efforts of a provincially-appointed mediator, the Rainy River District School Board said Friday that contract talks with its high school teachers “collapsed” yesterday when the union rejected the board’s final offer.

Teachers in Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Atikokan are in a legal strike position effective at midnight on Feb. 21, the board said in a press release issued this morning.

No one from the local OSSTF could be reached for comment by press time Friday morning.

The teachers previously had said some kind of job action, likely starting Monday, would be taken if the contract talks scheduled for Feb. 20-21 failed to reach an agreement

The board said the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation 5B came to the negotiations requesting a five percent wage increase in the current year—and showed little movement throughout the talks.

The board’s proposal offered the teachers a choice of either a one-year interim agreement of three percent (retroactive to Sept. 1, 2002) or a two-year settlement of three percent (retroactive to Sept. 1, 2002) and another three percent starting Sept. 1, 2003.

The interim offer would give teachers an immediate salary increase, with the ability to negotiate in several months once future provincial funding is known.

The second alternative—with a six percent salary hike over two years—would bring the maximum salary for a secondary school teacher to $75,464.

Both proposals provided no reductions to the existing benefit plan and retirement gratuity entitlement in the collective agreement, the board said in its release.

The current maximum salary of a secondary teacher is $71,132. This places the board fourth in the province—and above the provincial average of $70,322, the board said.

The board’s offer includes the entire three percent salary increase the provincial government provided to all boards for the 2002-03 school year.

OSSTF left the bargaining table while rejecting both offers, the board said. No counter offer was presented, it added.

No future meeting dates are scheduled.

“I am disappointed with the outcome of negotiations and had hoped that the positive relationship with district secondary teachers would bring a fair settlement for both parties,” trustee Frank Sheppard said in the released.

The board said it is ready to meet with OSSTF whenever they would like to continue to negotiate an agreement.

The teachers, who have been working without a contract since the fall, voted more than 98 percent in favour of strike action after talks last month failed to reach an agreement.

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