Secondary school teachers reach contract agreement

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ONTARIO – The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) has reached a tentative agreement with the government and the province’s school board associations at both the teacher/occasional teacher and education worker central bargaining tables.

OSSTF/FEESO President Harvey Bischof said April 20, “these are extraordinary times. When we began negotiations nearly a year ago, no one could have anticipated the situation we face today. 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. We thank our members for their support, solidarity and sacrifice during these many months of negotiations. Our union remains stronger and more united because of their demonstrated commitment on the front lines across this province.”

“With the support of the public and our members, we mounted a strong public awareness campaign that highlighted the government’s dangerous approach to education,” said Mr. Bischof. “As a result of our combined efforts, this government, although early in its term and holding a majority, was pushed back from some of its most egregious proposals.”

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education also issued a statement on the tentative agreement with OSSTF, the Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) and the OSSTF Education workers and the Council of Trustees Associations (CTA).

“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 Minister. Lecce. “During this entire process, our aim was to ensure our young people receive the best education we can offer so they can develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom and in the jobs of the future.”

“We will remain focused on the government’s dual priority of keeping students safe while ensuring the continuity of education,” said Minister. Lecce. “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.”

Mr. Bischof said, “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.” 

“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,” said Mr. Bischof.

Details of OSSTF’s tentative deal were not immediately revealed, but a source told the Globe and Mail on April 20 it was similar to one ratified last month by the Catholic teachers’ union. That deal included one percent annual salary increases, average class sizes in high school of 23 students (up from the previous average of 22) and two mandatory online learning courses with an opt-out policy for families.

Last month, Minister Lecce announced changes to the province’s proposals. Among them, he said his government made a commitment to maintain full-day Kindergarten and fund supports for special education and other learning needs negotiated in a previous contract.

OSSTF/FEESO’s local leaders from across the province will meet via teleconference in the coming days to review the tentative agreements and determine, according to the unions established processes, whether or not to forward them to the membership for a ratification vote. Member ratification votes are tentatively planned in May.