Tentative deal reached with public high school teachers

TORONTO—An 11th hour effort between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and the Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) cleared the logjams in labour negotiations that have lingered for over a year to produce a tentative agreement. As a result, the OSSTF has announced that it has suspended strike action plans and that teachers will resume extracurricular activities.

Although the agreement has yet to be ratified (it will go before the teachers for ratification sometime in September) media reports indicate that the province stepped back from a number of demands that had proven to be deal killers in reaching an agreement.

Under the tentative agreement, OSSTF members will see a 2.5 percent increase over the next two years and a onetime lump sum of one percent for all teachers and occasional teachers for the upcoming year, a .5 percent salary increase “for teachers and persons of responsibility” halfway through the 2015-2016 school year, to be followed by a one percent salary increase in September 2016.

Government officials assert that the agreement meets the criteria of a “net zero” contract where any increases in wages would be offset by other cost savings.

Under the agreement, OSSTF members will be allowed to take sick leave for medical or dental appointments, while long-term substitute teachers will double their maximum allowable sick days from 60 to 120. In addition, teachers will get one additional professional activity day. The teachers’ union also secured wiggle room in professional judgment, including a promise to consult them about any changes to student grades.

Management backed off on meddling with a number of items the union was adamant be kept at current levels: the amount of time they’re required to spend supervising students outside of class and class size limits, which the province and boards had wanted to remove entirely.

With the provincial negotiations out of the way, there remains the question of local agreements between teachers’ union locals and individual boards that under the two-tier legislation that governs education negotiations are dealt with locally. As of press time there was no word on the status of those negotiations which had met an impasse before the end of classes in the last school year.