Teachers to head back to bargaining table
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Aug 11, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Teachers to head back to bargaining table

Ontario high school teachers union to resume talks next week with school boards and the province. Catholic teachers also head back to table

OurWindsor.Ca

Wait — is that a ray of hope on the school horizon?

After nearly three months of nothing but crickets at the bargaining table, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has agreed to resume talks next week with school boards and the province.

The meetings Aug. 18 and 19 come just three weeks before students return to class under threat of a boycott of after-school programs by high school teachers.

OSSTF made the decision Tuesday after meeting informally with a provincial mediator and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association and representatives of the Ontario government, said OSSTF President Paul Elliott, who would not elaborate on the return to talks.

Moreover, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), which has threatened a sweeping work-to-rule campaign if there is no deal by Labour Day, will sit down Aug. 12 and 13 with Catholic school boards and the province.

“We’re extremely hopeful that the team will be ready to roll up their sleeves and hammer out a deal without having any disruptions,” said OECTA President Ann Hawkins.

OECTA launched a website Tuesday called Teachersmatter.ca that outlines “troubling demands” by the government that it says will “ensure the quality of education in Ontario will suffer.” The website notes that under the current proposals, teachers would not have had a salary hike in five years. OECTA will be in a legal strike position Aug. 17.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) walked away from talks in May and has instructed members not to plan field trips for the fall or take part in professional development. It is expected to consider further possible work-to-rule measures at its annual meeting next week. ETFO members refused to write comments on year-end report cards as a labour action, and also declined to input students’ marks into school computers, prompting boards to hire managers to work into the summer to input the data themselves.

Each of the unions has said it would not return to bargaining unless the school boards and government removed demands they saw as concessions. OSSTF has opposed boards’ desire to make caps on class size more flexible by calling them “guidelines.” ETFO has opposed boards’ move to give principals more say over what teachers do on their prep time.

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said Tuesday, “We are at the table and we will stay to get a deal that is good for students and respectful of the teachers who work in our classrooms.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne called union and school board leaders to her office last month and urged them to try to find agreement before the fall.

“Following that meeting, we have been actively engaged in discussions with all partners to return to the table and resume talks as soon as possible,” said Nilani Logeswaran, spokesperson for Education Minister Liz Sandals. “There are meeting dates now set with our various educational partners, including OSSTF and OECTA to resume central bargaining.

“We want our students and teachers to start the school year without disruptions and with full programming, and that is why we remain committed to bargaining throughout the remaining weeks of summer to reach an agreement.”

Toronto Star

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