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Ontario strikes deals with French language, elementary teachers’ unions


April 1, 2020
By Allison Jones/The Canadian Press

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Photo: Getty Images

Ontario has reached tentative contract agreements with the unions representing the province’s 12,000 French-language teachers and 83,000 elementary teachers.

The government and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) announced their tentative deal late Tuesday afternoon.

The union said details of the agreement will remain confidential until it is ratified, and a date has not yet been set for a vote by members.

Third agreement reached

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The agreement is the third reached between the government and the province’s major teachers’ unions in recent weeks after months of contentious negotiations.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement that the government is committed to providing stability for students and staff “during this unprecedented time.”

AEFO President Remi Sabourin praised both his members and parents in a statement of his own.

“Their encouragement and solidarity supported our efforts throughout a particularly laborious round of negotiations,” Sabourin said.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s elementary teachers have agreed to salary increases of one per cent a year for three years, according to a memo obtained by The Canadian Press.

Highlights of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s new tentative contract with the provincial government were sent to its members this week.

Sticking points

The government had previously said it would not budge beyond an offer to increase both wages and benefits by one per cent per year, but ETFO secured four per cent annual increases to benefits.

Lecce had also wanted concessions on a regulation that dictates seniority-based hiring, and while the agreement doesn’t come with any such concessions, it also doesn’t come with guarantees that the government can’t make changes to the regulation.

The agreement also contains a two-year, $89-million “Support for Students” fund, which ETFO says will create about 434 teacher positions, to address areas such as special education, English language learning and mental-health initiatives.

The government has also made a “binding, enforceable” commitment in writing to maintain the current full-day kindergarten structure, with one teacher and one early childhood educator.

Class sizes

Ontario committed to maintain current class sizes, which means an increase of one student in average class sizes for Grades 4-8 that the government imposed last year won’t be rolled back.

ETFO members are set to vote on ratification April 23-27.

Earlier this month, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association reached a tentative deal with the government and is holding ratification votes April 7 and 8.

OECTA also agreed to one per cent on salary and four per cent on benefits, according to a confidential memo obtained by The Canadian Press.

The deal also agrees to average high school class sizes of 23 — up from 22 last year. The government came out with that offer shortly before the deal was reached. It’s down significantly from the government’s original target of 28.

E-learning

The OECTA deal also includes opt-out provisions for e-learning courses.

It also includes language on the seniority hiring regulation that is different from ETFO’s deal. It says that 65 per cent of permanent positions will now be filled with one of the three “most senior and qualified applicants.” The other 35 per cent of positions can be filled using criteria other than seniority.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has not resumed formal bargaining with the government since December.

OSSTF President Harvey Bischof said that union has been focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks and not talks.

“We’ve all been very focused on trying to do the best we can under these current circumstances … for us, right now, that’s been a higher priority because we’re in the midst of unprecedented circumstances.”