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Ontario government strikes deals with French language, elementary teachers’ unions

Lecce says deal reached with Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Friday in a video posted to social media that the province has reached a tentative agreement with Ontario's elementary teachers’ union, the largest teachers’ union in the province and the second – behind the Catholic teachers’ union— to reach a deal. (March 20)

Ontario has reached tentative contract agreements with the unions representing the province’s 12,000 French-language teachers and 83,000 elementary teachers.

The government and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) announced their tentative deal late Tuesday afternoon.

The union said details of the agreement will remain confidential until it is ratified, and a date has not yet been set for a vote by members.

The agreement is the third reached between the government and the province’s major teachers’ unions in recent weeks after months of contentious negotiations.

READ MORE: Ontario elementary teachers’ union, province reach tentative agreement

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement that the government is committed to providing stability for students and staff “during this unprecedented time.”

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AEFO President Remi Sabourin praised both his members and parents in a statement of his own.

“Their encouragement and solidarity supported our efforts throughout a particularly laborious round of negotiations,” Sabourin said.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s elementary teachers have agreed to salary increases of one per cent a year for three years, but will get higher benefit increases than the government originally sought, according to a memo obtained by The Canadian Press.

READ MORE: Ontario elementary teachers to resume bargaining on Wednesday

Highlights of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s new tentative contract with the provincial government were sent to its members this week.

The government had previously said it would not budge beyond an offer to increase both wages and benefits by one per cent per year, but ETFO secured four per cent annual increases to benefits.

Lecce had also wanted concessions on a regulation that dictates seniority-based hiring, and while the agreement doesn’t come with any such concessions, it also doesn’t come with guarantees that the government can’t make changes to the regulation.

The agreement also contains a two-year, $89-million “Support for Students” fund, which ETFO says will create about 434 teacher positions, to address areas such as special education, English language learning and mental-health initiatives.

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The government has also made a “binding, enforceable” commitment in writing to maintain the current full-day kindergarten structure, with one teacher and one early childhood educator.

Ontario committed to maintain current class sizes, which means an increase of one student in average class sizes for Grades 4-8 that the government imposed last year won’t be rolled back.

ETFO members are set to vote on ratification April 23-27.

Earlier this month, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association reached a tentative deal with the government and is holding ratification votes April 7 and 8.

READ MORE: Ontario public high school teachers union pauses rotating strikes until March 27

OECTA also agreed to one per cent on salary and four per cent on benefits, according to a confidential memo obtained by The Canadian Press.

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The deal also agrees to average high school class sizes of 23 _ up from 22 last year. The government came out with that offer shortly before the deal was reached. It’s down significantly from the government’s original target of 28.

The OECTA deal also includes opt-out provisions for e-learning courses.

It also includes language on the seniority hiring regulation that is different from ETFO’s deal. It says that 65 per cent of permanent positions will now be filled with one of the three “most senior and qualified applicants.” The other 35 per cent of positions can be filled using criteria other than seniority.

READ MORE: Ontario teachers’ unions move ahead with job action despite new government offer

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has not resumed formal bargaining with the government since December.

OSSTF President Harvey Bischof said that union has been focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks and not talks.

“We’ve all been very focused on trying to do the best we can under these current circumstances … for us, right now, that’s been a higher priority because we’re in the midst of unprecedented circumstances.”

— With files from Shawn Jeffords

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