The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) says it’s close to striking a deal with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), with sick leave and benefits the two sticking points.
But ETFO has fired back, accusing the board of bargaining in public and engaging in a media stunt that has set back negotiations.
OPSBA and the government of Ontario have been negotiating with ETFO for more than 30 days, and in that time, most of the issues that prompted the labour dispute have been resolved, OPSBA said in a release Wednesday.
OPSBA’s Jeff Sprang says the following issues have been tentatively agreed upon:
• Class size
• Teacher supervision time
• Preparation time
• Salary increases
• Regulation 274 – Hiring Practices
• The addition of a Professional Activity Day
• A moratorium on new Ministry initiatives until August 31, 2016 until ETFO has had an opportunity to consult on future Ministry initiatives
• Committees and work groups to address unique ETFO issues including:
- Health and Safety issues
- Workload issues related to special education
- Full Day Kindergarten class size
- Grades 4-8 class size
Sick Leave and Benefits the last sticking points
“On the issue of sick leave, OPSBA and the government have proposed adjustments in how the plan is administered in order to maintain the 131 days of sick leave provided annually to teachers,” the OPSBA release states. “These are the same adjustments that were accepted by the OSSTF teachers.
“With regard to benefits, ETFO has been offered a provincial benefits plan with the same framework as that accepted by the other teacher unions. ETFO has yet to decide whether they wish to participate in the plan.”
OPSBA says it’s confident the “spirit of problem-solving … will prevail and lead to an agreement that will bring stability for students, for teachers and for parents…”
In late September, ETFO filed an Unfair Labour Practice Complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, accusing the province and OPSBA of refusing to bargain in good faith.
ETFO represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province.
The union started a work-to-rule campaign back in May, citing wages, class sizes and teacher prep time as major sticking points in their negotiations.
Teachers also began staging “Wynne Wednesdays,” withdrawing from activities outside the classroom, including extracurriculars. ETFO has also threatened rotating one-day strikes if progress wasn’t made at the negotiating table.
ETFO calls OPSBA announcement “media stunt”
ETFO accused OPSBA of bargaining in public, with ETFO president Sam Hammond saying OPSBA’s announcement has set back negotiations.
“This media stunt is yet another example of bad faith bargaining by OPSBA,” said Hammond in a release. “This is a very public example of the disrespect and dismissive attitude that OPSBA has displayed throughout this entire round of bargaining. ETFO is now going to have to re-evaluate how to proceed.”
“With so much at stake for our students, our schools and our members, OPSBA has destroyed all the trust we’ve worked hard to build at the bargaining table. Collective bargaining is about obtaining a fair collective agreement for all, but it’s also about building trust and relationships among the parties who are negotiating collective agreements,” said Hammond.
“In decades of bargaining in the education sector, I have never seen such flagrant disrespect displayed for the bargaining process and for our members.”
Hammond says ETFO will be filing a bad faith bargaining complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.