Ontario elementary teachers have reached tentative contract deal with province

Ontario Elementary Teacher. Image credit: Unsplash/ National Cancer Institute

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Toronto/CMEDIA: A new tentative deal between Ontario with English-language public elementary teachers had been reached Nov 21, averting a possible strike, Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed it in a social media post on Tuesday morning.

“This agreement brings us one step closer to ensuring there will be no province-wide job actions or strikes in all English-language public schools for the next three years,” he was reported to say.

When ratified, Tuesday’s agreement would apply to over 80,000 union members, including elementary and occasional teachers, according to the union.

Having previously voted 95 per cent in favour of a strike, Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) with union leadership were reported saying it would help to put pressure on the government to reach a deal at the bargaining table.

Leccer said that in this new tentative central agreement, some issues will be going to binding arbitration, although it is unclear what those outstanding issues are.

“I want to respect the process,” Lecce told reporters at Queen’s Park.

“I just think it’s a fair outcome for the members certainly but it’s really good for kids, because they get three additional years of peace, which is a big outcome for a lot of parents in Ontario.”

“After 14 months of central bargaining, we’re pleased to be able to bring forward a tentative agreement to our teacher and occasional teacher members that protects their collective agreement entitlements and also addresses key bargaining goals,” ETFO President Karen Brown said in a statement.

“This has been the longest round of central bargaining in ETFO’s history, but we persisted. We remained focused on getting government cuts off the table and on addressing members’ working conditions, which are students’ learning conditions.”

A ratification vote will be scheduled shortly.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Lecce said there will be items in the deal going to binding arbitration, though he said he couldn’t share details as the agreement hasn’t yet been ratified.

“We are using that [framework] for the outstanding issues that could not be resolved through our process of negotiating over the past weeks,” he said.

Ontario has already agreed to give public high school teachers and ETFO education workers retroactive salary increases to compensate them for constrained wages under a law known as Bill 124. Amounts were agreed to for two of the three years affected by Bill 124, but the amount for the third year will be decided at arbitration.

Workers who represented ETFO and the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, reportedly would get retroactive compensation amounting to 0.75 increases for 2019-20 and 2020-21, and an amount between 1.5 per cent and 3.25 percent for 2021-2022.

The exact amount for that third year would be decided by an arbitrator.

The Ontario government is still in the bargaining process with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, whose members also voted in favour of a strike, and with the union representing teachers in the French public system.

“I urge the remaining teachers’ unions to end the delay, and come to the table to sign an agreement that ensures that every child in Ontario can learn without the threat of strikes over the next three years,” Lecce said. “The time is now to get this done.”