Unrealistic deadlines are not good for labour peace

Toronto, August 2, 2012 - The government has told school boards that the memorandum executed with Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) will be the "road map" they must use in negotiating new labour contracts with teachers and other unions. The OECTA deal emerged from a process in which the government, in the role of facilitator, signed a deal between themselves and the OECTA union without the school board employer representatives being present. Other unions have indicated in their reactions that they find the OECTA deal unacceptable. This presents clear obstacles to achieving labour deals using the "road map."

After five months of negotiations, the government has reached two deals without the agreement of the employers. The government is now asking school boards to reach 400 collective agreements inside of four weeks.

"The Ministry has been unable to overcome the opposition of the major public school employee groups and, within the parameters of the OECTA deal, it is difficult to see how the school boards can present palatable solutions to achieve deals." said Lori Lukinuk, vice president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association.

A significant pressure on boards is the legal requirement to continue existing collective agreement provisions while a new agreement is being settled. The fiscal restraints in the Ontario Budget mean that there is no funding for boards to continue these provisions as they are presently structured.

"The Ministry knows the legal strictures boards are under and that the current OECTA "road map" is not acceptable to most employee groups. Given the sequence of events in the government discussions of the last five months, it is unrealistic to expect boards to find solutions within the OECTA "road map" that will alter the position of teacher and support staff unions in the next few weeks," said Lori Lukinuk.

Complex challenges are not easily resolved through the government's current approach that involves pressuring school boards into reaching agreements under these circumstances with the threat of legislation and ministerial takeover hanging over their heads.

"Boards are very mindful of the desire of the government to preserve labour peace and stability in our schools and classrooms. We share that desire," said Lori Lukinuk. "However, given our member boards are required to meet the financial constraints imposed by the government, we are concerned that, in the absence of deals mutually agreed between boards and employee, labour peace and stability in our school boards will be profoundly compromised, and lead to serious negative impacts on our classrooms and students."

OPSBA and our member boards have worked diligently over the past five months to remain at each of the provincial discussion tables. Throughout the provincial discussion process we have sought, and continue to support and defend, those measures that provide an environment for schools, school boards and the staff who work there to meet their responsibilities under the Education Act, most specifically our moral and legislated accountability for student achievement, student safety and well-being.

SOURCE: Ontario Public School Boards' Association

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For more information, please contact:
Jeff Sprang
OPSBA Communications
(416) 340-2540

8/2/2012