The pressure is on Ontario’s Education Minister to avert further labour strife and approve six tentative deals that secondary school teachers say are within the stringent financial parameters dictated by the province.
The agreements, which Laurel Broten insisted must be “substantively identical” to terms agreed with the English Catholic teachers’ union in July, came this weekend after school boards asked the Minister to define the phrase.
Sources familiar with the talks said it will likely take Ms. Broten a few days to approve the deals because some items require a financial commitment from the government. The teachers’ union, for example, wants control of the benefits plan that requires the government to contribute money directly or through school boards.
The details of the deals will remain confidential until the province and union membership are able to review them. In a sign that both sides were hopeful the deals would be approved, they remained tight lipped about the details. The government has forced teachers to accept cuts to their sick days and across-the-board pay freezes, which temporarily block young members from getting their annual experience-based pay bumps.
The new agreements, if approved, would not only provide a blueprint for other deals, but would save the school year from continued uncertainty. High-school teachers at about 30 school boards are in a legal strike position and their numbers grow every week. Teachers at 172 schools in York Region were the first elementary-school instructors in the province to begin strike action Monday.
The six local high-school teacher unions that inked tentative deals over the past few days said it behooves the Minister to approve them. The six boards that reached tentative deals were Avon-Maitland District School Board, District School Board of Niagara, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Thames Valley District School Board, York Region District School Board and the Upper Grand District School Board. Other boards were in discussions with local teacher unions this week.
Paul Rawlinson, president of the local teacher bargaining unit at the Upper Grand District School Board, which serves Guelph and the surrounding area, said the deal meets all the requirements laid out by Ms. Broten in previous meetings.
“To be quite frank we’d be surprised and disappointed if she’s not okay with it,” Mr. Rawlinson said. “It was really clear what needed to be in there, and that let it move ahead over the weekend.”
Colleen Ireland, the president of York Region’s teacher union, added: “We feel the tentative agreement respects the government’s financial parameters. Whether she agrees is entirely up to her.