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Three teachers' unions reject Ontario's proposal to land new contracts and avoid strike

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Unions representing most Ontario teachers are rejecting a pitch for binding arbitration to land new contracts and prevent possible strikes.

On Friday, the government and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) announced a plan to head to arbitration if a negotiated contract agreement can't be reached by Oct. 27.

OSSTF members still have to approve the process.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce had hoped the other unions would sign on to what he called an "incredibly fair, reasonable student-focused proposal."

But in a joint statement, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontarien (AEFO) said it's not something they can consider at the moment."

"What's been proposed for OSSTF wouldn't work for us," OECTA president René Jansen in de Wal told CTV Toronto Saturday.

"(Arbitration can be effective in the right place. But it would narrow the tables of issues...and we have critical issues that matter for our students and quality of the classrooms we have."

ETFO President Karen Brown agrees an arbitrator isn't best suited to resolve many of their members' concerns.

"We have issues around violence in the classroom, issues around hiring. These are issues where the government has to actually make those decisions and requires extensive talk and negotiations," Brown said.

Lecce explains the arbitration pitch still leaves lots of room for "spirited discussions at the bargaining table" through Oct. 27.

"But for those outstanding issues that we may not be able to reach, we now have a credible, independent, third party, interest arbitration system that can bring forth a resolution and a settlement that keeps kids in class," Lecce said Saturday.

ETFO, OSSTF, and OECTA have scheduled strike votes in September and October to gauge support of job action and to add pressure to the bargaining process.

AEFO's president said last week the union was evaluating its options.

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