Kevin O'Dwyer, OECTA's provincial executive tsu3rdvp.blogspot.ca

OECTA deal aims at avoiding strikes, official says

By 
  • July 9, 2012

TORONTO - In an effort to be facilitate local bargaining procedures, avoid potential strikes and remain responsible to younger teachers, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) signed a tentative two-year deal with the province earlier this month, a deal that has angered their public school counterparts.

"This framework will now constitute each and every collective agreement within the province. They'll go through the local bargaining process to go ahead and address that," said Kevin O'Dwyer, OECTA's provincial executive. "It tries to be pretty responsible to the younger teachers."

But this comes at a financial cost as the province is aiming for a wage freeze over the next two years for teachers. This has made the negotiations the hardest O'Dwyer said he'd experienced during the last 20 years.

"Items that are difficult to take are obviously that temporary reduction of pay," said O'Dwyer, referring to a 1.5-per-cent wage reduction from a wage freeze and three unpaid professional development days, which will occur in year two of the contact.

The deal has come under fire from the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO). These unions say the OECTA deal places young teachers at risk.

"It's demoralizing for educators, and leaves an uncertain future for younger teachers," said ETFO president Sam Hammond during a July 6 press conference.

"The deal may be good enough for OECTA members but it is not good enough for OSSTF/FEESO members," said federation president Ken Coran. "It is not good for students, it is not good for young members, and it is not good for Ontario."

These concerns influenced both unions' decisions to walk away from the bargaining table with the province.

While those represented by OECTA will likely be engaged in collective bargaining next month, assuming the deal is ratified, the public teacher's union members will be partaking in strike votes from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7.

O'Dwyer said younger teachers can recuperate the losses by making grid advances. In Ontario, teachers can surpass what they'd yield from annual raises by completing courses and thus increase their overall value more significantly than experience alone provides. 

"We'll hopefully assist other individuals who can move along the grid, those younger teachers who probably need the most support financially because they are just starting out their career (and) they're coming in with probably a pretty substantial debt," he said.

Teachers also lost the "infamous 20 days sick day bank and carry forward," said O'Dwyer, which allowed those in eligible boards, about half of the Catholic boards, to cash out a maximum of 200 sick days upon retirement.

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