The Ontario government has reached a deal with Catholic teachers through an unprecedented move that cut school boards out of the agreement.
The deal will avoid labour strife in Ontario's Catholic schools this fall and puts pressure on remaining unions to follow suit, but at the cost of cutting out local government.
"I'm dismayed, surprised," said Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association vice-president Kathy Burtnik. "It's very concerning because we have no idea what the impact will be for our schools."
OCSTA left the bargaining table late Wednesday night and was blindsided Thursday by news that the province had taken the unusual step of signing a deal directly with the Catholic teachers' union. These deals have traditionally been made between individual school boards and the unions.
It was less than a decade ago that the province stepped in, ostensibly to co-ordinate and facilitate negotiations.
The deal gives teachers in the 45,000-member Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association a two-year pay freeze, three unpaid professional development days, cuts down on their allotted number of sick days and blocks them from banking unused ones.
The OECTA is the first teachers' group to break ranks with other unions, who have refused to negotiate after they were told their wages would be frozen.
"Many people thought that this day would never come, that we would never agree, that we were too far apart," Education Minister Laurel Broten said. "But this agreement demonstrates the value of partnership." The Liberals are trying to get workers in the broader public sector to accept a wage freeze as they battle a $15-billion deficit. Ms. Broten said this deal will serve as a "road map" for bargaining with all of the other boards.
"The agreement shows the direct path to preserve our educational priorities while meeting our clear fiscal parameters." They've said they'll legislate the freeze if all other options fail.
Mr. McGuinty has said his government will work as hard as it can to secure agreements before school starts in September.
The Liberals are trying to broker similar deals with other teachers' groups to meet their goal of saving $250-million in 2013, plus one-time savings of $1.4-billion.
With reports from The Canadian Press