Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that Ontario elementary teachers and some support staff will have their pay docked if they don’t stop their work-to-rule campaigns.
The announcement came on Friday as the elementary teachers threatened to withdraw from extracurriculars.
Wynne has given the teachers until Nov. 1 to stop their work-to-rule campaigns or they will sanctions.
“Children’s lives are being negatively affected, so parents and families are understandably frustrated,” Wynne said. “Schools are increasingly dirty and activities that are important to students and parents such as completion of report cards are not taking place.”
Bargaining with the Elementary Teachers’ Fereration of Ontario and the unions met on Friday with Wynne.
“I think it’s entirely possible to reach an agreement,” Wynne told reporters at Queen’s Park on Friday.
She said the unions had eight days to come to an agreement and stop their work-to-rule campaign, or the school boards would be given the authority to reduce pay.
— Cynthia Mulligan (@CityCynthia) October 23, 2015
The school boards have requested consent from the government to dock the pay of teachers and staff who are withdrawing services but the government won’t give that permission until Nov. 1, which would then trigger five days’ notice of impending action.
“If by Nov. 1 one of two things has not happened, then government will give permission: either tentative agreements are reached and all job actions are stopped, or all job actions are stopped and do not resume as talks continue,” said Wynne.
ETFO president Sam Hammond said his members won’t respond to threats and they are not backing down from their extracurricular withdrawal next week even though bargaining is resuming.
“We’ve been asking to get back to the table to get dates. I was very happy to hear that the premier has mandated eight full days of bargaining,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said at Queen’s Park on Friday.
Partick Brown, progressive Conservative leader said Wynne’s deadline a distraction from controversy surrounding a $2.5 million payout to teachers’ unions—the ones the government has already reached deals with—to compensate for extra costs during lengthy negotiations.
“People are upset with the government. They think it’s inappropriate…No one believes you’re simply going to ballpark or guess what $1 million means in negotiation costs. It’s disrespectful to taxpayers,” said Brown.
Negotiations were so lengthy this round because of a new system the Liberal government introduced. There is a cost associated, said Wynne, but why it’s up to the government to pay the unions’ costs, she didn’t say.
“The fact is the government isn’t covering all of the costs,” she said.
ETFO and support staff represented by CUPE and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation have been without contracts for 14 months.
As the government tries to eliminate a multi-billion-dollar deficit it has said there is no new money for public sector compensation.
The $2.5 million was factored into the net-zero nature of the teachers’ contracts, Wynne said, though she didn’t know where that money came from.
She also couldn’t say whether the government has compensated other public sector unions for negotiation costs.
“I can’t give you that information because I don’t know. I don’t know the details of that,” said said. “I’m not saying we’re not aware of it, I’m just saying I don’t have the numbers in my hand.”
Government staff said it doesn’t provide support to unions bargaining for workers directly employed by the Ontario government, but for the broader public sector.
“This type of information is not contained in collective agreements and there is no central place where this information is tracked,” said Government staff.
OSSTF president Paul Elliot said it is always part of the compensation package.
“It’s been part of the process as long as I’ve been doing this and it’s really nothing new,” he said. “It’s not a sweetener. It’s part of the whole complete bargaining process.”