Talks break down between province, teachers after first day of renewed bargaining
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, December 16, 2019 6:31PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 16, 2019 8:07PM EST
Talks between the province and the union representing Ontario’s public high school teachers have broken down after just one day.
The two sides sat down Monday under a media blackout in an effort to negotiate a new contract to end a months-long labour dispute that has resulted in a series of single-day strikes by teachers.
Two days of bargaining were scheduled to take place Monday and Tuesday. However Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office confirmed Monday evening that with little prospect of agreement, a mediator has cancelled talks for Tuesday.
In a statement, Lecce said he was “frustrated and disappointed” with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) because of their request to increase compensation.
“I am frustrated and disappointed by OSSTF’s actions at the negotiating table today. They came forward today with no new proposals, no changes to their position, and no ideas on how to advance negotiations,” Lecce said in a written statement. “They continue to focus on further enhancements to their compensation package, which if applied to the sector would cost approximately $1.5 billion.”
Teachers have asked for a two-per cent raise to bring their salaries in line with inflation. The provincial government has insisted that the raise would cost too much and has moved forward with legislation to cap increases for public sector workers at one per cent.
Speaking to CP24, OSSTF President Harvey Bischof disputed the government’s cited figure of $1.5 billion and said salary wasn’t even raised in negotiations Monday.
“Compensation was not raised for one second in today’s bargaining,” Bischof said. “So to claim that compensation is somehow the holdup, when in fact it’s quality of education and we had zero discussion about compensation today tells you that once again the minister is attempting to mislead the public for his own political purposes and my members are disheartened by his ongoing attempt to discredit their commitment to their students.”
Other sticking points in the negotiations have been increased class sizes and mandatory e-learning credits proposed by the province.
Bischof confirmed that no talks will happen Tuesday and said that means another single-day strike will move forward in select districts on Wednesday.
“It became evident, including to the mediator, that the government was not prepared to make a single move today,” he said. “On the recommendation of the mediator, we won’t be meeting tomorrow, which means that there will be action on Wednesday in selected boards around the province and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Public high school teachers have been without a contract since August.
The two sides aren’t expected to get back to the bargaining table until January.