Following months of back and forth negotiations and walk-outs, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has reached an agreement with the Province of Ontario and signed a new three-year contract with the province over education funding.
Since September 2019, both the OSSTF and the Progressive Conservative Ontario government had been engaged in an escalating public-relations battle which resulted in thousands of teachers and education workers holding province-wide strikes in December and through to February.
However, amid the healthcare threat posed by COVID-19, which has led to the closure of all publicly funded schools in the province, OSSTF President Harvey Bischof acknowledges that the “extraordinary times” had a direct impact on the negations.
“While this tentative agreement does not satisfy all of our concerns, we recognize the current environment we are in and the need for students to have stability once this emergency is over,” OSSTF Harvey Bischof said in a news release.
It was reported that the government had backed down from some of the most “egregious proposals” which had previously sparked an escalating battle between the province and the teachers’ union. The provinces’ proposal for a planned increase of class sizes and the introduction of mandatory e-learning have been reduced as part of the new agreement.
While the Ford government previously proposed classroom sizes with a student-to-teacher ratio of 28:1 (28 students in each classroom with one teacher), it has been reduced to 23:1. The e-learning requirement has also been reduced from four mandatory courses to only two.
Parents will also have the option to have their child opt-out of online classes if they wish but it will require a meeting with the child’s guidance councillor.
The Union, however, agreed to the government’s firm request on one per cent increase in compensation per year for the life of the contract – which the province had imposed onto public sector employees through legislation.
In a statement by Education Minister Stephen Lecce, throughout the negotiations, the province has tried to reach a deal that advances the priorities of students and parents.
“During this entire process, our aim was to ensure our young people receive the best education we can offer, so they can develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom and in the jobs of the future,” said the Education Minister.
“We will remain focused on the government’s dual priority of keeping students safe while ensuring the continuity of education. Moreover, we remain determined to continuously strengthen teacher-led learning and virtual learning for the benefit of our students, and we continue to look to our educators to rise to the challenge and deliver quality education to every child, wherever they may live.”
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