Ontario Public Secondary School & Elementary School Teachers – 3 Articles

Tachers’ Unions Urged To Take Arbitration Route To Avoid Strike: Education Minister

Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Aug 28th, 2023

By Liam Casey

Three teachers’ unions should agree to a deal with the province that avoids a strike, Ontario’s education minister said Monday.

Stephen Lecce said he wants those unions to take the same agreement the province came to last week with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which represents English high school teachers.

“We’re going to … get this deal done as soon as possible so we can move forward with predictability for families that their kids are going to be in school for three straight years of uninterrupted learning,” Lecce said.

That deal with the OSSTF would, if ratified by members, see bargaining continue until Oct. 27, at which point any outstanding issues would be settled by binding arbitration, thereby avoiding a strike.

Lecce said he wants to make the same deal with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the union for teachers in the French system, the AEFO.

He is set to meet with two of those unions this week and the other next week.

Lecce said he wants the other unions to move quickly on negotiations.

“This should not take long,” he said.

The union representing teachers in the French system said Monday that the pace of negotiations had been unacceptably slow and it wasn’t ready to agree to a deal involving binding arbitration.

“Before any discussion on binding arbitration with the government, we want to have in-depth discussions on topics and issues that are still unresolved,” Anne Vinet-Roy, president of AEFO, wrote in a statement.

If the next round of bargaining dates, set for Aug 30-31 and Sept. 1 does not address unresolved issues, the union will “evaluate all possible options to move negotiations forward more quickly,” Vinet-Roy wrote.

The union is not ruling out calling a strike vote, she said.

Both the elementary teachers’ and the Catholic teachers’ unions are already planning strike votes for the fall.

The president of the Catholic teachers’ union took umbrage on Monday with Lecce’s comments.

“Catholic teachers would appreciate if Minister Lecce and the Ford Conservative government did more talking at the bargaining table, and less talking in the media,” president René Jansen in de Wal wrote in a statement.

The union has had just 30 bargaining meetings with the province over the course of 450 days since it filed notice to begin negotiations – an average of two meetings per month, he said.

“We still have not finalized the scope of central items to be bargained,” he said.

ETFO declined to comment on Monday.

The three unions had said Friday in a joint statement they were not currently considering the province’s proposal. They said Premier Doug Ford’s government has bargained little since their current deal expired last year.

“The Ford Conservative government has continually refused to engage in substantive discussions with our unions, despite our many attempts to make progress at our respective bargaining tables,” the unions said.

The three unions said they want to have meaningful discussions on issues such as increased violence in schools, mental-health supports and addressing the teacher shortage.

They said binding arbitration “would all but guarantee” the key issues brought forward at the bargaining table would not be addressed.

The OSSTF said the proposal from the province would give its members a remedy for “wages lost” under a wage restraint law known as Bill 124.

That 2019 law capped salary increases for teachers and other public-sector workers to one per cent a year for three years. It was ruled unconstitutional by an Ontario court, but the government has appealed.

Last year, the province agreed to a deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents education workers, to provide a 3.59 per cent raise annually.

That deal only came after the province rammed through legislation that took away the workers’ right to strike. The province walked that law back after a massive provincewide walkout that shuttered schools for two days.

OSSTF Reach Tentative Deal on Process To Avert A Strike

Courtesy of Barrie360.com, Canadian PressPublished: Aug 25th, 2023

By Allison Jones in Toronto

Ontario public high school teachers will not go on strike this fall, if members accept a tentative agreement reached Friday by their union to use binding arbitration if needed to get a contract.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said Friday that if members ratify the deal reached with the government, the union will keep bargaining until Oct. 27 and at that point any remaining issues would be settled by arbitration.

“We will continue to bargain, but this proposal does establish a clear pathway forward for this round of bargaining that could potentially end in arbitration,” OSSTF president Karen Littlewood said.

“This process that we are now bringing to our members promises to break any impasse at the bargaining table by bringing in a third party arbitrator to seek a fair and just resolution.”

The four major teachers’ unions have been in bargaining with the government for more than a year and all have complained about the slow pace.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association are planning strike votes for the fall, but Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he is making the same offer to them, as well as the union representing teachers in the French system.

“Now that we have a tentative agreement with OSSTF, we have now just invited all three teacher federations to meet with us as early as Monday so that we can lay out this proposed agreement and to ask them to agree to it as well,” Lecce said.

“This should not take those unions weeks, but rather days to agree to this incredibly fair, reasonable student-focused proposal that keeps kids in school.”

However, the three unions issued a joint statement saying it is not something they can consider at this time.

“Entering into binding arbitration at this juncture would not support the students we serve in elementary and secondary schools – as binding arbitration would all but guarantee that the key issues we have brought forward at our respective bargaining tables, which are critical to learning and working conditions in our schools, would not be addressed,” the unions wrote.

Binding arbitration is not normally used in education collective bargaining, but is used in some other broader public sectors.

Littlewood said the proposal would also give OSSTF members a remedy for “wages lost” under a wage restraint law known as Bill 124. That 2019 law capped salary increases for teachers and other public sector workers to one per cent a year for three years.

It was ruled unconstitutional by an Ontario court, but the government has appealed.

The OSSTF had told members in a recent memo that it was also planning strike votes in the fall, saying the government had shown little interest in substantive negotiations and a strong strike mandate would demonstrate a determination to get a fair deal.

Education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees were the first to get a deal in this round of contract negotiations, with CUPE saying the deal came with a $1-per-hour raise each year, or about 3.59 per cent annually, for the average worker.

Elementary Teachers Reject Ontario’s Offer To Head To Arbitration, Avoid Strike

Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Aug 29th, 2023 1:33pmLast Updated: Aug 29th, 2023 2:47pm

By Liam Casey in Toronto

Public elementary school teachers in Ontario have rejected the province’s offer to head to arbitration to avoid a strike, its union president said Tuesday.

Karen Brown, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said the union will instead file for conciliation.

Last week, the province and the union that represents English high school teachers agreed to negotiate until the end of October and send outstanding issues to arbitration.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce urged the three other teachers’ unions to agree to the same deal that avoids a strike.

Brown said Tuesday that ETFO was refusing that deal. 

“This government is trying to be a bully and they’re trying to impose someone else’s agreement, someone else’s terms and conditions, on our members,” she said at a news conference.

The arbitration route that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation have agreed to go down is not something ETFO members want to do, she said.

“At this point in bargaining, binding arbitration is rolling the dice with our members’ hard won rights and entitlements,” Brown said. 

“The Ford government is currently demanding significant cuts to sick leave benefits and professional development. Binding arbitration would mean that the arbitrator is a hundred per cent in control.”

She said the best chance to get those cuts removed is through bargaining. 

The union would also prefer to deal with certain issues through bargaining, Brown said. Arbitration will not address violence in schools, recruitment and retention issues, challenges with the hybrid learning model and special education supports, she said.

Brown argued Lecce had created a “false narrative” over the past week that arbitration is the solution to fix the bargaining process.

“We have a right under the Ontario Labour Relations Board to go through the full bargaining process, and that is to apply pressure for them to be at the bargaining table,” Brown said.

Brown said the pace of negotiations with the government has become unacceptably slow. There’s been no progress on a deal through 30 meetings over the past year, which is why the union is filing for conciliation to iron out some of the major issues, she said.

The union also plans to hold strike votes in September, Brown said.

Lecce said the government has made “every effort” to get a deal with ETFO and was urging the union to accept its latest offer.

“We first offered ETFO private mediation, and the union rejected it,” he wrote in a statement.

“We then offered a new proposal to keep negotiating and send outstanding matters to a mutually agreed upon interest arbitrator that keeps kids in class and ETFO rejected that, too.”

He said the union had decided to “proceed on the path to a needless strike, instead of negotiating a deal that keeps kids in class.”

The unions representing teachers in the French system and the Catholic system have also said arbitration is not for them. Both plan to hold strike votes sometime this fall.

Patricia Dent

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