Education Minister Liz Sandals said talks with Ontario’s teachers’ unions will resume following a meeting Friday between Premier Kathleen Wynne, union leaders and public school board representatives.
Sandals called it a very positive meeting and said the unions “are committed” to getting back to the table in August and reaching new contracts before classes begin on Sept. 8.
The education minister said she is confident six weeks is enough time to reach a deal.
“Absolutely, there’s time to come to come to solutions,” Sandals said at Queen’s Park.
Wynne asked for the meeting to try to jump-start the stalled negotiations, and issued a statement afterwards saying not getting back to bargaining “is an abdication of our responsibility.”
Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said while the meeting was a positive one, teachers are standing together and that there’s still a long way to go before any deal is reached.
“I think we’re more united now than we have ever been in any round of bargaining, and we are going to continue to work together to get respectful deals at the end of the day for our members,” Hammond said.
The union leaders said it was an interesting conversation but they still have some major issues to deal with, especially around working conditions and class sizes.
Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said he “didn’t hear anything that’s changed anyone’s opinion or position.”
However, he did agree it was a positive step from the premier.
Sandals said the road to a deal is not going to be an easy one, adding “we’ve always said that this is going to be very difficult bargaining.”
Contracts for all 115,000 Ontario teachers expired last August, and the unions have warned of increased work-to-rule job actions if there are no agreements by September.
Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, which negotiates with the teachers’ unions on behalf of the government, refused to speak with reporters as he left the meeting.
With files from Momin Qureshi