Members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association have ratified an agreement for a new contract following months of contentious negotiations and four one-day strikes.
Association president Liz Stuart says it was a particularly difficult round of negotiations as the Ontario government sought to implement what she called “significant cuts” to publicly funded education.
The one-day walkouts by the association’s 45,000 members marked the first time Catholic teachers had engaged in province-wide strike action.
Stuart says Catholic teachers stood up for students and wound up securing funding for programs for vulnerable children, scuppering government plans for mandatory e-learning and enhancing the process for reporting violence in the classroom.
The agreement allows the association to continue pursuing a constitutional challenge to the government’s cap on compensation increases.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce congratulated the teachers and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association for ratifying the deal.
“Our aim is to ensure our system is responsive and adaptive to the challenges on the horizon, and we have full confidence that educators will rise to the challenge and work hard to ensure students learn and succeed,” he said in a statement.
According to a confidential memo obtained by The Canadian Press, the association agreed to a one-per-cent hike on salary and four per cent on benefits.
The government had previously said it would not budge beyond an offer to increase both wages and benefits by one per cent per year.
English Catholic teachers also agreed to average high school class sizes of 23 – up one from last year but considerably smaller than the government’s original target of 28.
Late last month, the government reached tentative contract agreements with the unions representing the province’s 12,000 French-language teachers and 83,000 elementary teachers. Ratification votes are scheduled later this month.