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The Ontario government is hoping to reach deals with with its four teachers’ unions, who have been without contracts since August 2022. It is widely expected to be a challenging round of bargaining with the Progressive Conservative government.

Prior to the pandemic, unions engaged in job action – ranging from work-to-rule to one-day strikes – as tensions with the government rose. They reached agreements with the province just as the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020 led to school closings.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has urged the unions to accept binding arbitration with the hopes of avoiding strikes.

The Globe and Mail looks at where each union is in with its negotiations with the province and school boards:

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

Represents: 83,000 members, that include elementary teachers, occasional teachers, education-support personnel, professional-support personnel and early-childhood educators.

Latest (Dec. 15, 2023): Members voted 90 per cent in favour of accepting the four-year agreement reaching with the province and the school boards’ association. As part of the agreement, Ontario’s public elementary schools will add 401 specialist teachers to help the province’s youngest learners advance in their reading skills. The specialist teachers will support classroom educators in administering a reading screening tool in senior kindergarten, and Grades 1 and 2. They will also provide reading support, either one-on-one or in small groups, for students in kindergarten to Grade 3. ETFO’s deal includes government funding for these specialist teachers for the next academic year and the following one.

Compensation increases for educators will be decided by a third-party arbitrator, according to the agreement.

On October 23, ETFO reached an agreement with the government and school boards for its 3,500 education workers, including early childhood workers, education support personnel, and professional support personnel. Members voted 80 per cent in favour of accepting a four-year agreement, which included a wage increases of $1 per hour. This would mean a 4.2 per cent increase for an education worker earning $39,000 per year.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

Represents: About 60,000 members that include high-school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, psychologists and speech-language pathologists.

Latest (Sept. 27, 2023): Members approved a proposal in September to use binding arbitration, if needed, to reach a new contract with the government. There will be no strike or lockouts because any items that can’t be agreed on at the bargaining table by October 27 will be sent to a third-party arbitrator.

Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)

Represents: About 45,000 members, including elementary, secondary and occasional teachers.

Latest (Dec. 1, 2023): The union said that it is in the process of filing for conciliation with the Ministry of Labour. That means all sides would work with a third-party in an attempt to move negotiations forward and reach a tentative deal.

OECTA members have voted 97 per cent in favour of a strike if contract talks with the government fail to reach an agreement. It rejected the government’s offer for binding arbitration.

Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)

Represents: About 12,000 members in French-language school boards.

Latest (Feb. 15): The union and government announced that it had reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. AEFO said in a statement that salaries would be determined by a third-party arbitrator.

CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU)

Represents: 55,000 education workers in the public, Catholic, English and French school systems across the province. Members include education assistants, school library workers, administrative assistants, custodians and early-childhood educators.

Contract settled: The province reached a deal with the union last year, which gave workers a $1-an-hour wage hike each year of the four-year agreement, amounting to an average annual increase of 3.59 per cent.

The deal with CUPE ended a weeks-long drama that came to a head when Premier Doug Ford’s government passed legislation that used the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to strip the union of its right to strike. The government retracted the move after members walked out anyway and the labour movement vowed widespread protests.

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