OSSTF and province negotiate tentative central agreement

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ONTARIO – The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) has reached a tentative central deal with the province and the Ontario Public School Boards Association, as well as an agreement between OSSTF-represented education workers and the Council of Trustees’ Associations, becoming the final of four teachers’ unions recently engaged in labour negotiations to reach a proposed agreement.

“It’s been a long time coming. We began this process back in late October, early November, so to finally get a tentative deal, although the details have yet to be shared, I’m sure the membership here in District Three are looking forward to hearing those details,” OSSTF District Three president Eric Laberge told The Expositor shortly after the news broke Monday morning. 

OSSTF District Three represents teachers and occasional teachers in Rainbow District School Board secondary schools and has bargaining units for the Sudbury Student Services Consortium, educational support staff and professional student services personnel.

“Our priority has always been to reach good deals with teachers’ and education workers’ unions that advance the priorities of students and parents. That is exactly what we have done by reaching deals with every education union in this province,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement issued April 20.

“We will remain focused on the government’s dual priority of keeping students safe while ensuring the continuity of education. Moreover, we remain determined to continuously strengthen teacher-led learning and virtual learning for the benefit of our students, and we continue to look to our educators to rise to the challenge and deliver quality education to every child, wherever they may live,” added Mr. Lecce.

OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said the current state of the world is beyond anything that could have been predicted when labour negotiations began nearly a year ago.

“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. 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,” said Mr. Bischof in a statement.

“We will continue our advocacy to protect the world-class education system that we have been instrumental in creating. Our members and our students deserve that never-ending effort,” he said.

Mr. Bischof said the state of his union was stronger for having gone through this negotiation process and said they managed to convince the Ontario government to abandon “some of its most egregious proposals” in this central deal.

As with the other recently negotiated teachers’ union deals, the specifics of the tentative agreement will not be made public until the district leaders of OSSTF get a chance to meet via teleconference, review and vote on the tentative agreement. Should the local leaders approve the deal, they will then pass it to the union members themselves for a final vote. 

The whole-member ratification vote is expected to take place in May, as of the time of the tentative agreement.

Once the central agreement details are released, Mr. Laberge said the district would begin to frame its local negotiations with the Rainbow District School Board. He did not indicate that the central deal would have to be ratified before those discussions could begin.

“This process is about getting the best possible learning environment for our students. That’s what we job actioned about and we’re glad to see that in these difficult times we can focus more on delivery of curriculum and our members can focus on trying to navigate distance learning,” said Mr. Laberge.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents elementary school teachers in Rainbow schools, is expected to release the results of its central agreement ratification vote this coming Tuesday, April 28.