In a Jan. 2 open letter to teachers and education workers, Premier Dalton McGuinty said the government's preference is negotiated settlements, but that citizens expect “the uncertainty in education will not continue indefinitely.”
He said Minister of Education Laurel Broten will have “more to say” at a Jan. 3 press conference about “the path forward for your new collective agreements.”
Under Bill 115, legislation passed by the province in September, the province had the power to impose contracts on teachers and education workers as of midnight Dec. 31.
McGuinty said as part of the province's efforts to overcome “a stubborn deficit left over from the global economic recession,” the government asked all public sector workers to negotiate a two-year wage freeze.
More than 90,000 public servants, including some teachers and support staff, now have deals with the province, he said.
At the same time, some education workers' unions, namely the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, have not signed deals.
“We started negotiations in the education sector in February, hoping we could find common ground,” McGuinty said.
“We expected difficult discussions, but we were disappointed that some parties chose to walk away from negotiations, never to return.
“We were grateful to those who chose to stay at the table and find a path forward with us. Those parties — OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association) and AEFO (Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens) in particular – persuaded the government to move away from our original offer and toward agreements they considered to be more in the interests of their members.
“Those compromises will now serve as the terms for contracts moving forward.”
He said the government made compromises in negotiations such as allowing pay grid movement for eligible teachers in exchange for a two-year pay freeze and unpaid days.
There's a “tremendous amount of goodwill” among the province's teachers, McGuinty said.
He said he remains “confident that Ontario's teachers will do what you've always done — strive for excellence in the classroom so that our students continue raising their achievement and getting the best possible start in life.”