Jun 18, 2015

By Michael Kramer

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Ontario’s Premier says she’s open to changes to the new school board bargaining process.

But Kathleen Wynne says the two-tier system of central and local talks – is likely here to stay.

The Liberal government brought in the changes last year.

Money issues are bargained at central tables – and at this point talks are stalled with both the public high school and elementary teachers – who’ve been on an administrative strike since May.

Last month the Ontario Labour Relations Board ended three local strikes – in the regions of Durham and Peel and the Sudbury-area Rainbow district – after the labour actions were ruled illegal – because they were partly about central issues.

The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act was intended to bring clarity to negotiations- but the Labour Board has said the legislation isn’t clear enough in some areas.

Wynne says it’s “entirely reasonable” to consider making changes to the legislation – but she hasn’t suggested a complete overhaul.

Education Minister Liz Sandals has also said she would “certainly” consider changes to the legislation – during a planned review.

Ontario’s major teachers’ unions have all raised the possibility of strikes in the fall.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has applied for conciliation – and that may set the stage for a province-wide strike.

Meanwhile, the elementary teachers have threatened to escalate their work-to-rule campaign in the fall – and have been publicly grappling with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, which is also at the central table.

When contract negotiations began with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, both sides signed ground rules – preventing them from discussing bargaining details in public.

But in light of an ad campaign – and statements in the media by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the OPSBA said this week that the teachers’ initial monetary position is over $3.2 billion – including a three-per-cent wage increase each year – for three years –  plus a cost-of-living allowance.

ETFO president Sam Hammond fired back that his union has not formally tabled any salary positions at the central bargaining table.

To top it all off – the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association has also said a strike is possible in September – if there isn’t any progress made this summer.

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