Ontario government and education union begin contract negotiations
Negotiations began Monday between the Ontario government and a major education union, the first in a series of planned talks with labor groups in the sector ahead of the expiration of contracts for teachers and other school workers at the end of August.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees – which represents 55,000 Ontario education workers, including early childhood educators, school administration workers, bus drivers and janitors – said that negotiations had started as planned on Monday morning.
Further meetings are scheduled this week with unions representing elementary, secondary, French and Catholic school teachers, the government said.
Existing contracts are due to expire on August 31. Unions have said they want to see better wages for members and better educational experiences for students, while the government has stressed it wants to see students in the classroom without disruption this fall.
Inflation and the high cost of living are expected to be front and center in the talks, and both sides enter negotiations with the baggage of the newly re-elected Progressive Conservatives’ first four years in government.
The last round of negotiations has been turbulent, with teachers organizing strikes and work-to-rule campaigns. Bill 124, a law that capped pay increases for public sector workers at one percent a year, also played a significant role in the tensions.
Premier Doug Ford has since said teachers will be offered a “greater than 1%” raise this time around.
CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions central bargaining committee said in an update earlier this month that it hopes to negotiate a deal that provides more support for students and “ensures that the workers’ wages will no longer be eroded”.
“The frontline education workers you have chosen to represent you at the bargaining table are ready to reach a fair deal that improves the educational experience for children starting in September and transforms jobs in education. education into a job that people can afford to do now,” the committee said.
OSSTF calls for an increase in the cost of living
Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said her union will be asking for a cost-of-living increase when talks begin on Wednesday, similar to what they demanded during the final round of negotiations.
“It should come as no surprise to anyone that we’re looking for something similar this time around, given that there really haven’t been any substantial increases and the education sector has been restricted by the bill. 124,” she said in an interview.
“Hopefully in this round we have something that recognizes the really rising costs that all workers are facing these days, and we can have some relief for our workers.”
Littlewood said the union wanted a raise “that will keep up with inflation” and stressed that it “would like to not be restricted by legislation and be able to negotiate”.
“We’ll see what the government brings to the table,” she said.
OECTA says it wants a ‘fair deal’
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association president Barb Dobrowolski, whose union’s first bargaining date is set for Thursday, highlighted the efforts of education workers during the pandemic years to keep the union functioning. Ontario’s “world-class publicly funded education system”.
“Catholic teachers are committed, as always, to working together to reach a fair agreement that achieves the best for our students, teachers, education workers and families, recognizing that the working conditions of educators are the working conditions of our students’ learning,” she said in an emailed statement.
“Negotiation can be a long process, but as we know our schools work best when there is meaningful collaboration between teachers and government.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a written statement that the government’s priority was to ensure pupils are back in the classroom ‘with a full school experience’, echoing comments made earlier by the Prime Minister.
“We believe stability is essential for Ontario students, to ensure they stay focused on catching up with essential life and career skills – from reading and writing to financial literacy – that will help them succeed,” Lecce said.
“We are focused on reaching an agreement that allows students to stay in class without any interruptions – ensuring that students can catch up on their studies and graduate with the skills they need for jobs in the world. ‘coming.”
Province Seeks Comments on 4-Year Agreements
Earlier this month, CUPE noted that a memo sent by the assistant deputy minister of education said the province was “considering” four-year terms for education sector collective agreements. , instead of the current three-year terms.
The memo says the four-year term would allow for greater stability as students catch up after the COVID-19 disruptions and seeks input from bargaining bodies on options for contracts lasting four years. two, four or five years.
The government confirmed on Monday that it was seeking comments on a four-year deal.
CUPE has suggested changing the terms of the contract will benefit the Progressive Conservatives’ 2026 re-election bid.
Littlewood said OSSTF will discuss the idea at the bargaining table when it is presented in the context of the rest of the agreement. She added that her union shares the government’s goals of getting students learning in classrooms in September.
“We have every intention of being in the classroom and supporting the students,” she said.