Three teacher unions reject Ontario agreement

by Christopher Smith - EAP
Three teacher unions reject Ontario agreement
Education Minister Steven Lecce voiced his support of an arbitration agreement with teacher unions on Aug 25 but three of the unions representing Ontario’s teachers do not agree. (Photo : Pixabay)

The OSSTF is considering an arbitration agreement with the Ontario government, but three other teachers unions have rejected it outright.

The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) is considering an arbitration agreement with the Ontario government that would bring students back to class without the threat of a strike. If it’s ratified, negotiations would continue with a new deadline of October 27, after which a third party would step in to resolve any outstanding issues.

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce issued a statement on August 25, “…inviting all outstanding teacher unions to meet with the government as early as Monday to also enter into a tentative deal ahead of the start of school. Let’s get these deals done and let kids get back to learning in peace and with confidence.”

The OSSTF released its own statement, which said that its bargaining unit presidents and chief negotiators voted “overwhelmingly” to enter the process. The OSSTF is preparing to hold a vote for its 60,000 members through September on entering the process.

“Today represents a critical point in this round of bargaining,” OSSTF President Karen Littlewood stated in a news release.

However, three other teachers unions have stepped forward to say that an arbitration agreement isn’t an option for them. In a joint statement issued later that same day, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontarien (AEFO) said it’s not something they can consider at the moment.

“Entering into binding arbitration at this juncture would not support the students we serve in elementary and secondary schools, as binding arbitration would all but guarantee that the key issues we have brought forward at our respective bargaining tables, which are critical to learning and working conditions in our schools, would not be addressed,” the joint statement said. “Furthermore, the decision to enter into binding arbitration now impacts the opportunity for meaningful local bargaining on key local issues.”

The OSSTF, ETFO, and OECTA all announced they were considering strike votes in autumn, owing to the slow pace of negotiations. AEFO also voiced concerns, but hasn’t yet announced plans for a vote.

“The Ford Conservative government has continually refused to engage in substantive discussions with our unions, despite our many attempts to make progress at our respective bargaining tables,” the joint statement said. “We once again call on the government to respect our right to free and fair collective bargaining, and come to our bargaining tables prepared to engage in meaningful discussions about critical issues facing publicly funded education in Ontario. Issues such as increased violence in schools, resources and supports for student mental health, teachers’ use of professional judgement, and addressing the teacher shortage.”

Lecce has not yet responded to this announcement.

“My ongoing commitment to Ontario families is to use every available tool and pursue every path that keeps students in school,” stated Lecce in his previous announcement. “Doing so will mean students are in classrooms learning what matters most: reading, writing and math skills.”

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