Ontario elementary teachers, support staff reach tentative deal, end strike action

WATCH ABOVE: The Ontario government has reached tentative deals with two education unions. However, another is still outstanding. Christina Stevens reports.

TORONTO — A tentative deal has been reached between the Ontario government and unions for both elementary school teachers and support staff, meaning that schools across the province will return to normal effective immediately.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said in a release late Monday that it was advising its members to suspend strike action immediately in light of the new agreement.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 55,000 education workers and support staff in schools across the province, said it had also reached a deal in central talks Monday that ended their work-to-rule campaign.

READ MORE: Deadline looms Sunday for Ontario teachers to end work-to-rule

“As a result of the tentative agreement, CUPE has agreed to suspend their job action pending ratification. So what that means is schools will once again be getting fully cleaned and be back to their regular standards of cleanliness,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said.

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“ETFO has also agreed to suspend their job action pending ratification. In particular, we have specifically agreed that the full progress reports, including comments, will be prepared for all the elementary students in the English public system.”

Sandals added that the deadline for producing the fall progress reports has been extended from Nov. 20 to Dec. 11 to make up for the delay due to strike action.

ETFO, which represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province, said it would conduct an all-member vote about the tentative agreement with results expected in mid-November.

“This round of bargaining has been exceptionally lengthy and difficult but in the end we achieved a tentative agreement that ETFO believes is fair and meets the needs of our members,” ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement.

“Local leaders will now focus their efforts on reaching agreements in their respective school boards.”

READ MORE: GTHA parents told they can’t help clean up messy schools as work-to-rule continues

Both ETFO and CUPE members have been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2014.

“I’m really pleased that we were able to reach agreement on producing those progress reports because I know that the parents are very anxious to get that information,” said Sandals.

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“Once again, the process to get to the tentative agreement has not always been easy, but I want to thank everybody for coming together this week and working very hard, not just all week, but obviously in the last 48 hours as well, to come to the agreements.”

Sandals said the agreement with CUPE represented “two firsts,” the first central agreement with education workers in the province’s history and the first agreement reached with all four trustee associations working together to serve as the employer bargaining agents.

Details of the settlement will not be released until members have reviewed and voted on the deal, CUPE said.

READ MORE: Ontario Progressive Conservatives want auditor general to investigate union payments

“While I’m obviously pleased that we have reached two more agreements that will protect the classroom experience for our students, at this time we have not yet reached a negotiated agreement with the OSSTF education workers,” she said.

“Job action is negatively impacting our students, schools have become increasingly dirty and we’re increasingly concerned about the health, safety and wellbeing of our students. This cannot go on.

“So while we have reached two agreements today, unfortunately OSSTF education workers have not reached agreement with the four trustee associations. They are also unwilling to stop their job action.”

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Sandals said the government would provide boards with consent to proceed with a five-day notice to OSSTF education workers that their pay could be docked up to 10 per cent if they do not reach an agreement.