Teachers leave for summer break with strike baggage
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
Ontario teachers could head to picket lines come September if a deal can’t be reached with the provincial government.
Following the announcement the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with province on Thursday (July 6), unions representing French, public secondary and elementary school held a press conference on Friday to express their distaste for the agreement.
“This deal does not put students first, it’s demoralizing for educators and leaves an uncertain future for younger teachers,” said Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond in a press release. “Who really believes you can take that kind of money out of education without jeopardizing the future of student success.”
The agreement between OECTA and the province made would see Catholic school teachers take a 1.5 per cent pay cut for two years — in the form of three unpaid professional development days — on top of a salary freeze.
The agreement also includes the elimination banking sick days and a restructured short-term sick leave plan that would include up to 10 sick days, rather than 20. Also included was a stipulation that said the pay grid would be reviewed with a view to sustainability in mind.
While that deal may have appeased OECTA members, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) president Ken Coran argued that isn’t the case for other unions.
“It will not satisfy the members of OSSTF’s concerns,” Coran said.
Following the signing of the MOU with OECTA, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan released a statement, saying the agreement sends a strong signal that the province and public sector partners can reach agreements that will allow Ontario to stay on track to meet its fiscal targets, namely eliminating its $15 billion shortfall.
“The deal outlined in the MOU provides a roadmap that will help us deliver on our shared objective of eliminating the deficit,” Duncan said. “I am hopeful that other education partners take the Minister of Education up on her offer to sit down and review it.”
Those comments came as a concern for the unions, however.
Hammond argued the MOU is anything but a blueprint as to how to move forward.
“It will be a roadblock to local bargaining and cause frustration and disruption in the school system as local boards struggle to reach collective agreements without the ability to actually bargain,” he said.
Coran agreed, adding if the government does get its way, the system will be negatively impacted.
“What they (the government) might do is pass a regulation that would say this is the way it’s going to be; take it or leave it,” he said. “Then it’s up to our members to decide whether they’re going to take it or leave it.”
As for whether there will be a strike on the OSSTF’s horizon, Coran said union members in the London area will be voting on it at the beginning of the school year.
“Our teachers will be in the classrooms in September and we will make further announcements as things evolve,” he said.