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Education New Ontario bargaining legislation for teachers aims to stave off labour unrest

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals.

CHRIS YOUNG/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario government will introduce legislation on teacher collective bargaining Tuesday in the hopes of preventing a repeat of the labour turmoil that gripped the school system through most of the last academic year.

The legislation will spell out how negotiations, expected to begin in 2014, will be conducted, education sector sources say. Big monetary issues, such as salaries and benefits, will be negotiated centrally by the government, teacher and support staff unions and school board associations. Bargaining on local issues, such as teacher workload, access to technology and training, will take place between individual school boards and their respective unions.

Public-school teachers stopped supervising extracurricular activities last year after the Liberal government introduced Bill 115, a controversial piece of legislation that dictated the terms of their contracts. Teachers stopped voluntary activities such as leading clubs or sports teams and offering extra help after school.

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School boards were also left out of the process when the contracts were imposed.

The Ontario Liberals chose a new leader, Kathleen Wynne, in January, and talks between both unions and the government resumed under the new Premier. Collective agreements were tweaked.

Education Minister Liz Sandals pledged to revamp the negotiations process through legislation, which would prevent contracts from being imposed. The current two-year contracts expire in August.

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, said the new bargaining framework will be effective, but it won't necessarily prevent a labour dispute because the government will likely look to cut costs.

"This model would work absolutely perfectly in times of plenty," he said. "[Negotiations] are not going to be easy."

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