Ontario’s incoming premier has agreed to meet with leaders of two largest teachers’ unions this week in an effort to end ongoing disruption in the province’s schools and restore clubs and sports teams.
Outgoing premier Dalton McGuinty’s successor, Kathleen Wynne, has hinted that she will look at formalizing the negotiation process between the province, schools boards and teachers. The move may alleviate concerns amongst teachers that their bargaining rights have been compromised, but it stops short of meeting the demands of the union’s staunchest supporters who would like to see contract terms imposed through Bill 115 removed.
“I’m not going to rip up those contracts,” Ms. Wynne said Sunday. “But I’ve also been very clear that we have to engage in a conversation about extracurriculars.”
Teachers stopped leading extracurriculars – things like clubs and sports teams – in September, after Bill 115 was voted into law by Conservative and Liberal provincial parliament members, including Ms. Wynne. Thousands gathered outside the Liberal Leadership Convention over the weekend to demand that the Liberal government undo the effects of Bill 115 and re-open negotiations.
A spokesperson for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario confirmed that president Sam Hammond had received a phone call from Ms. Wynne and would be meeting with her this week. In a statement, the union called on Ms. Wynne to restore “democratic values” to Ontario.
The president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Ken Coran, said he looked forward to meeting with Ms. Wynne.
Ms. Wynne could improve the relationship between the government and teachers by bringing “fresh eyes” to the Ministry of Education’s negotiations team, he said, though he stopped short of echoing calls from some teachers for the ouster of Education Minister Laurel Broten.
The president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, Michael Barrett, said Ms. Wynne may be able to reassure teachers their democratic rights are protected by creating a legal framework for the negotiations process between the government, school boards and unions.
“There is hope because she certainly was a very good minister of education,” he said, referring to Ms. Wynne’s turn at the post between 2006 and 2010.