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Canada High-school teachers in York Region, Niagara reject deals

Ontario Minister of Education Laurel Broten.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

High school teachers at two school boards have dashed hopes for a return to peace in Ontario schools, rejecting deals bargained by local union leaders and school boards and approved by the ministry of education.

Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) at York Region and Niagara district school boards voted against a deal that would delay raises for younger teachers and cut back on sick days.

A similar deal was ratified and approved by high school teachers at Upper Grand District School Board, which serves Guelph and the surrounding area.

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"I am disappointed that OSSTF teachers in York and Niagara did not ratify locally bargained collective agreements," Education Minister Laurel Broten said in a statement e-mailed to reporters late Tuesday. "Reaching negotiated agreements that meet our shared fiscal challenges while protecting small class sizes, full-day kindergarten and teacher jobs has always been our preference."

Members voted on the deals – which were based on similar contracts drafted for English Catholic teachers over the summer – Tuesday..

With the deals rejected, teachers at Niagara's school board will resume job action, which includes cutting back on administrative duties, on Nov. 28th. Teachers at York are expected to begin job action soon afterward.

Elementary and high school teachers are angry at the Ontario government for legislating the terms of their contracts and putting limits on their ability to strike through Bill 115. They have been withdrawing voluntary services like coaching sports teams since September, and have launched a human rights challenge of the bill in Ontario's Superior Court.

On social media sites, and in interviews with The Globe and Mail, teachers said they felt the deals resembled the terms of Bill 115 too closely and undermined their bargaining rights. High school teachers began pulling back on administrative services – things like submitting attendance records and inputting grades into computer systems – for several weeks, and elementary teachers are beginning to reach a legal strike position, too, and launching their own job action.

The results come as a blow to OSSTF's leadership which has spent many late nights at the bargaining table trying to reach a deal with local school boards. The failed deals are also a mark on the record of outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty, who built his political record on popular education policies such as caps on primary class sizes and full-day kindergarten.

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