Teachers in York, Niagara reject tentative contract deals
Protesters numbered in the thousands show their support at a rally for public education and democracy organized by The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario at Queens Park in Toronto on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, November 28, 2012 8:01AM EST
High school teachers in York Region and Niagara have voted against the tentative deals struck by their union and the school boards, triggering the resumption of job action.
Both deals were agreed to by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the two boards in mid-November, and had been approved by Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten.
If ratified, the deals would have delayed pay increases for new teachers and cut benefits including the "banking" of sick leave.
The rejection means secondary school teachers in Niagara have been advised by the union to resume job action that has so far escalated from withdrawing volunteer activities to limiting staff, department and parent meetings and cutting back on administrative work including standardized testing.
In a bulletin announcing the vote results Tuesday night, the OSSTF said job action will begin in York Region, too, "at a date to be determined."
In a third vote covering schools in the Guelph area, Upper Grand District School Board teachers ratified their agreement. The margins of the votes have not yet been made public.
In a written statement Tuesday night, Broten said she was disappointed that teachers had rejected the collective agreements.
"Reaching negotiated agreements that meet our shared fiscal challenges while protecting small class sizes, full-day kindergarten and teacher jobs has always been our preference," she wrote in an email.
Ontario teachers and the provincial government are at odds over legislation passed in September that sets the terms of their contracts and limits their ability to go on strike.
While the government has held off invoking the new powers set out in the Putting Students First Act, several unions are taking the matter to court.
The OSSTF, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Union of Public Employees are all arguing that Bill 115 is unconstitutional and violates their members' rights. Approximately 40,000 education workers, elementary and secondary school teachers are already involved in job action at 28 boards across the province.
The three contracts put to the vote Tuesday were the first of ten tentative deals, six of which have the minister's approval.
With files from The Canadian Press