Nearly eight months after their contract expired, and after who knows how many lost hours in the classroom due to rotating strikes, the Ontario government has closed its fourth and final deal with the teachers’ unions. With a month’s time, a year of labour strife at Ontario’s schools has come to an end with a tentative deal with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).
“Our priority has always been to reach good deals with teachers’ and education workers’ unions, that advance the priorities of students and parents,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement. “That is exactly what we have done by reaching deals with every education union in this province.”
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) was the first to reach a deal with the government on March 13, and they have since ratified the deal. The week after, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) reached their own deal with the Province, and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) secured their deal the week after that.
“Our main priority has been to protect the education system by reaching a deal that respects our members and ensures students get the best education possible,” said Harvey Bischof, the president of the OSSTF in his own statement. “We thank our members for their support, solidarity, and sacrifice during these many months of negotiations.”
The OSSTF was the first teachers union to push for job action against the Ontario government, and it was also the most difficult union to secure a deal with because it not only represents teachers, but also support workers and teachers assistants. Despite the deal, Bischof said he and his union decided to put stability over the need for a perfect deal given the emergency situation.
“While this tentative agreement does not satisfy all of our concerns, we recognize the current environment we are in and the need for students to have stability once this emergency is over,” Bischof added. “Even now, educators continue to do their best for students during this crisis and look forward to welcoming them back to the face-to-face support we know is best for most students.”
“For months, teachers were defending high quality public education against the most drastic cuts in a long time,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in his own statement. “If not for their determination and resilience, the government would have raised average class sizes to 28 students and pulled thousands of educators from our schools.”
“I want to thank teachers’ unions and the province for putting differences aside to reach a tentative deal that ensures students are back in class when the pandemic is over,” Schreiner added.
No details about the agreement have been released by either the union or the government, and there will be no official release until both sides have ratified the deal. The OSSTF leadership will discuss the deal in teleconference later this week, and the whole union will have a ratification vote sometime in May.
The ETFO will be voting on their deal starting later this week, while the AEFO is still doing town halls with its members about their tentative contract.