Ontario’s Catholic teachers have reached a tentative deal with the province, the first of the four main teachers’ unions to settle following months of labour unrest.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) said on Thursday that it was suspending all job action while its 45,000 members ratify the deal on April 7 and 8.
“Details of the agreement remain confidential pending ratification,” the union said in a statement.
All four main teachers’ unions have been engaged in job action, from work-to-rule to one-day strikes, over the past few months as tensions with the government have risen. Teachers and education workers have been without a contract since the end of August.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Thursday that the deal was good for students, teachers and education workers, and “hopefully [it] will build momentum for further deals that ensure stability for every child [in publicly funded schools], Catholic and public, English and French.”
The OECTA resumed bargaining with the government and the school trustees’ association last week after Mr. Lecce announced changes to the province’s proposals.
He said the government had softened its stand once again on increasing average class sizes in high school, reducing the maximum number to 23 for the length of the contract. Previously, the government had set a goal of 28 and then 25, which would have led to thousands of fewer teachers in the education system over four years. The current average is 22.9.
Further, he said parents could have their children opt out of two online courses required to graduate from high school. Parents and the school’s guidance counsellor would meet to determine whether the courses, in Grades 11 and 12, would be appropriate. The province had initially planned to have four online courses.
Mr. Lecce also said his government had made a commitment to maintain full-day kindergarten and fund supports for special education and other learning needs negotiated in a previous contract.
As part of the new offer, the government would require unions to comply with its wage cap legislation, meant to limit public-sector pay increases to 1 per cent, and wants concessions on a seniority-based hiring regulation.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the country’s largest education union with 83,000 members, also renewed its talks with the provincial government this week. The union had said earlier this week that it would escalate its strike action after March break, which begins on Monday, if a deal is not reached with the government.
ETFO said on Thursday that it was suspending its rotating strikes scheduled to begin on March 23. The union’s announcement came as Mr. Lecce issued a ministerial order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March break in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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