Greater Essex Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

Main Menu

Teachers turn up nose at offer, annoyed by minister's meddling

Lee Greenberg
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, December 08, 2004

TORONTO - Unions representing Ontario's 125,000 teachers yesterday scoffed at the government's latest contract offer, accusing education Minister Gerard Kennedy of meddling in negotiations between its members and school boards.

"We have a lot of frustration that the minister is repeatedly setting the guideline very publicly for negotiations and at the same time saying he's not interfering in bargaining," said Rhonda Kimberley-Young, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF).

"We're going to be reasonable in how we approach this round of bargaining. But the minister can't clearly state to our members, as he did last month, that he would not interfere in local bargaining and then repeatedly say he expects them to take two per cent. We bargain locally. He hasn't taken away that right."

Mr. Kennedy said yesterday he will introduce legislation forcing teachers into two- or four-year deals, replacing the former three-year term imposed by the Conservatives.

Mr. Kennedy says both offers contain two-per-cent pay increases in the first two years. Teachers who accept four-year deals will have the pot sweetened, getting two-and-a-half and three per cent in the final two years of the contract. There will also be a clause to adjust for inflation.

He said Ontario's 72 boards could offer more than his own guidelines if they had surplus money in areas like transportation funding or their cleaning budget.

Mr. Kennedy called the long-term incentive a move toward "peace and stability" between the two sides, which warred under successive Conservative governments.

But Ms. Kimberly-Young accused the education minister of political expediency and hinted the decision to legislate contract terms smacked of Conservative "micromanagement."

"Our argument all along to this minister has been that it would be better not to legislate the term of collective agreements at all, but to rather let the bargaining process unfold and see what kind of agreements can be reached," she said. "Sometimes it's easier to get short-term agreements."

Emily Noble, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation, said Mr. Kennedy's offer of two per cent was "on the low side." She said elementary school teachers, who make between $32,000 and $76,000 a year, are looking for raises between three and three-and-a-half per cent a year.

Elementary school teachers could strike as early as January if there is no movement on their key demand of increased preparation time. The union wants the current 150 minutes a week raised closer to the 250 minutes given to high school teachers.

Ottawa is the exception: Elementary school teachers receive 200 minutes a week preparation time.