Ontario teacher contract negotiations already stalled

Empty School classroom

Earlier this month, Ontario's Education Minister expressed confidence a deal could be reached with teachers before their contracts expire on August 31.

NEWSTALK 1010 has exclusively learned that is not going to happen.

Negotiations have stalled before they even began.

The Ontario Public School Boards' Association and teachers' unions can't agree on what should be bargained at the central and local negotiating tables.

The issue is now in the hands of the Labour Board with a hearing slated for August 22nd.

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation can't make sense of what the Ontario Public School Boards' Association is choosing to dig its heels in on. "When it comes to things like procedures around how teachers are assigned additional supervision and on-calls, covering for an absent teachers, or how one goes about submitting a medical note...it's absurd to us that those things should be bargained centrally rather than with local employers, school boards, all around the province where those things were originally bargained."

While many be quick to blame the province for this, Bischof lays responsibility at the feet of the Ontario School Boards' Association. "The school boards' association for some reason doesn't trust their local constituents to manage their local boards in the way they were always able to manage their boards in the past. From our perspective things are very in Timmins from Toronto; there are different employment cultures, different histories to how collective agreements have developed over the years. It's ridiculous and counter-productive to bring that all to a central table in Toronto and try to deal with every corner of the province from there.

It's hoped the labour board will return with a decision a few weeks after the August 22nd hearing but it's anyone's guess. "There's simply no chance for an agreement by the start of the school year which means we will continue to work under the terms and conditions of the old agreement...as we have done in virtually every round of bargaining in the past. It doesn't mean that we are heading toward disruption. If there is good faith, productive bargaining from government and school boards than we will continue to negotiate until we reach an agreement," Bischof adds.

The Ontario School Boards' Association provided NEWSTALK 1010 with the following statement:

"The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act identifies that matters of significant financial consequence should be bargained centrally, where the funder (the government), school boards and federations are all represented. The SBCBA also identifies the Ontario Labour Relations Board as the dispute resolution mechanism should the parties not agree on the matters to be bargained centrally, and we respect OSSTF’s right to employ that mechanism. As Harvey Bischof noted to Newstalk 1010, this doesn’t mean we are heading toward disruption.
OPSBA and the Crown continue to actively meet at the bargaining table with the other education sector unions to identify central matters and issues bargaining."

Ontario's Education Minister, Stephen Lecce's office has provided this statement to NEWSTALK 1010:

"Minister Lecce continues to call on all parties to reach a deal as soon as possible to provide predictability and confidence to parents, students and educators alike. Our students deserve no less."