The president of the province’s largest teachers’ union accused the Ontario government of an attack on educators and rejected its proposed road map for a new contract.
Sam Hammond, head of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, made the comments Monday at a downtown Toronto hotel as part of the union’s annual general meeting.
“There has never in the history of the province from any political party been an attack like this on public-sector workers,” Mr. Hammond said.
Teachers’ unions have been largely supportive of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government since he took office nearly nine years ago and began styling himself as “the education premier.” But this latest round of negotiations has soured that relationship.
Mr. Hammond defended his members’ rights to 20 bankable sick days and to experience-based pay raises, two things that were rolled back in the government’s proposed road map – a memorandum of understanding signed in early July by the province and the English Catholic teachers’ union.
The francophone teachers’ union and the Toronto Catholic District School Board have signed since then, but the deal remains unpopular with school boards and the largest unions and doesn’t have the signatures needed to take effect this fall.
The government wants a two-year salary freeze to help eliminate the province’s $15-billion deficit. In exchange, it is promising to preserve full-day kindergarten and protect caps on elementary class sizes.
Early Monday, Education Minister Laurel Broten held a news conference to outline the benefits of the deal to younger teachers. She said it would ensure fair hiring practices so that young teachers wouldn’t have to linger for years on the occasional teachers’ list, scraping a living out of substitute work.
Mr. Hammond accused Ms. Broten of trying to pit young teachers against older ones, something she denied.
Mr. McGuinty’s government is pushing school boards to lock down local agreements with teachers by the end of the month, hoping to avoid expensive teacher pay raises that will otherwise take effect.
His government has threatened to introduce legislation that would impose a wage freeze if the school boards can’t get the job done. The elementary teachers’ union membership has voted in favour of a-one day political protest if that happens, but Mr. Hammond said there were no plans yet to strike.
“The last thing on my mind is a labour dispute,” he said.