Ontario English Catholic teachers ratify deal

By 
  • April 9, 2020

Ontario’s English Catholic teachers have ratified central terms of the agreement reached with the province last month that will put an end to labour unrest in the Catholic education system.

Members of OECTA, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, voted to accept the deal reached March 12 after a two-day ratification vote April 7-8. OECTA was the first of four teachers’  unions to reach a tentative agreement with the province and the first to ratify in what has been a long and bitter process that has seen mass walkouts by educators that saw OECTA members withdraw services for four full days. 

Terms of the contract have not been released, though the Canadian Press reports it obtained a confidential memo that says OECTA agreed to a one-per-cent wage hike and four per cent on benefits. It had sought a two-per-cent increase but Premier Doug Ford had long insisted on the one per cent.

“This was a particularly difficult round of negotiations in which the government was seeking to implement significant cuts to publicly-funded education,” said Liz Stuart, OECTA president, in a news release. “Our bargaining team put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to reach an agreement that will allow Catholic teachers to continue providing high-quality education over the long term.”

Stuart said it achieved its goal of standing up for publicly-funded education by securing funding for vulnerable children and helping end plans for mandatory e-learning. The deal also allows OECTA to continue pursuing a Charter challenge on what it calls an “unconstitutional cap” on wage increases.

“Catholic teachers made it clear every step of the way that we would do what it took to stand up for students,” said Stuart.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the new deal ensures “predictability and certainty to parents, students and educators alike.”

“We will continue to advance efforts that improve and modernize Ontario’s education system and serve the needs of students and their families while being fiscally responsible,” Lecce said in a statement. “Our aim is to ensure our system is responsive and adaptive to the challenges on the horizon and we have full confidence that educators will rise to the challenge and work hard to ensure students learn and succeed.” 

With an agreement on central terms, also signed by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, OECTA now begins negotiations between local units and school boards on their respective agreements.

Late in March, agreements were reached with French-language and elementary teachers. Ratification votes are scheduled for later this month. The union representing Ontario’s English public secondary school teachers resumed bargaining with the government on April 2.

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