Elementary schools teachers in the Upper Grand District School Board have a new contract, thanks to the iron fist of Education Minister Laurel Broten.
On Thursday (Jan. 3), Broten announced she would impose contracts for all teachers’ unions who had not reached an agreement by the Dec. 31 deadline.
Secondary school teachers reached a contract agreement with the Upper Grand District School Board in November.
“Our teachers remain among the best paid in Canada and their benefits remain generous,” Broten said in an emailed statement. “Teaching continues to be a rewarding career for thousands of dedicated professionals.”
The imposed contracts mimic the agreement reached between the education ministry and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) in July, with wage freezes for two years, reduction of sick days and lowering payment for banked sick days at retirement.
The contracts are retroactive to Sept. 1 and expire Aug. 31, 2014, saving the province $540 million, as well as a one-time saving of $1.1 billion by eliminating banked sick-days.
“It is what parents and taxpayers expect of us,” Broten said. “Talks on the other hand, were not so simple. Nor did we expect them to be.”
The authority to implement contracts without union approval is granted under Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act. With contracts in place, Broten said she would move to repeal Bill 115 by the end of the month.
“The bill goes away on paper because they’re willing to repeal it, but it doesn’t go away in terms of practical implications,” said Doug Cook, president of the Upper Grand Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO). “It doesn’t go way in spirit or in terms of a purpose.”
Broten said negotiating was the government’s preferred option for reaching contract agreements rather than using powers granted under Bill 115. However, Cook said the minister’s version of negotiation was to either voluntarily take the deal or have it imposed.
“They never demonstrated negotiations as a preferred approach. That is pure rhetoric and indicative of the double speak this expresses,” Cook said. “They’re masters at double speak.”
How the ETFO will show their opposition to the forced contracts has yet to be decided, Cook said.
“We’re not in the practice of knee jerk reactions,” he explained. “We have to have an opportunity to consider and be strategic.”
Continuing the boycott of extracurricular activities is “certainly an option,” Cook told The Banner. ETFO members also voted 92 per cent in favour of a one-day labour action.
“That’s something we’ll be thinking about,” Cook said.