Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has asked Ontario teachers to accept a two-year wage freeze and a modified sick-leave plan.

OECTA says McGuinty video problematic for negotiations

  • March 7, 2012

Premier Dalton McGuinty’s public call for the province’s teachers to “do their part” in helping slay Ontario’s deficit will only harm the bargaining process, says the head of the Catholic teachers’ union.  

In a recent YouTube video appearance, McGuinty asked Ontario teachers to accept a two-year wage freeze and a modified sick-leave plan in an effort to reduce the $16 billion provincial deficit in a way that preserves small class sizes and all-day kindergarten.

“While education funding will still grow, we’re going to have to focus on things that allow our children to achieve the best possible results,” said the Premier, adding it will take hard decisions to curb spending. “Our government’s choice is to protect the classroom, to ensure our children get what they need to reach their full potential.”

But the bargaining process can only be harmed by taking negotiations outside of the boardroom, said Kevin O’Dwyer, president of Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA).

“It takes it outside of that bargaining process. Both (Education Minister Laurel Broten) and the Premier have stepped outside of that process,” said O’Dwyer. “It’s not what is an accepted approach to arriving at mutually agreed upon collective agreement. It is problematic.

“With bargaining, you want to have the opportunity to discuss all options and all ideas. Once someone starts to talk away from that table it starts to restrict your ability at that table.” 

As the province tries to deal with its deficit, McGuinty is calling for a wage freeze and modifying the teachers’ sick leave plan which carries an annual $1.7-billion liability, according to the ministry of education. Teachers can take up to 20 sick days per year and bank the days that haven’t been used, up to a maximum of 200. Upon retirement these days can be cashed in for a lump sum payment that maxes out at about $46,000 for teachers in some boards.

Entry level teacher salaries range from $41,766 to $44,292 and can reach $92,813 in elementary schools and $94,942 in high schools. The government claims that overall compensation in wages and other benefits to teachers increased by 8.5 per cent per year on the last contract.

“I cannot speak to how they’ve made that calculation,” O’Dwyer said. “All I know is that we signed a deal with this particular government, (for) three per cent each year of a four-year collective agreement.  Now they seem to be using a different number. It’s a pretty convenient number.”

With respect to sick days, O’Dwyer said few teachers reach the maximum payout.

“The assumption is that everybody accesses those benefits to their most,” O’Dwyer said. “That’s the irony of this thing, people are calculating what they see as the possible and they’re ignoring what is the probable.”

The current contract expires in August but McGuinty has indicated that the government wants a new agreement in place within the next few weeks.

Ontario’s teachers unions are asking to meet with the Premier to discuss the timelines and the negotiating process.

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