The Rainbow School Board in Sudbury says it will approve the Memorandum of Understanding established by the province and public teachers unions in the spring, just in time for today’s deadline.

Local unions are pleased, but they’re also questioning why the board took so long to sign off.

The board says those new contract agreements come with a big price tag.

The Rainbow Board education director said his board needed reassurance the cost of those new contract promises would be paid for by the Ministry of Education.

The cost includes bargaining points such as boosting sick day payouts and reducing the number of unpaid days off.

"Prior to this, we had no idea what we were getting into," Norm Blaseg explained. "That was the whole premise of the boards holding back.

The Rainbow Board passed the motion to append the MOU at its board meeting held Aug. 27. The deadline to do so is Aug 29.

Blaseg said if the province didn’t agree to pick up the tab, the new provisions in the MOU would have cost the board $1.4 million.

"That’s quite challenging for many boards, including ourselves," he said. "We’d be tapping into or maybe even seeking cutting out certain programs, and we didn’t want to be going there."

The Ministry of Education said it has set aside $160 million to assist school boards.

‘A day late and a dollar short’

The president of the union representing elementary teachers with the Rainbow Board said she has a hard time believing the school board was waiting for a financial commitment from the province.

"I find that very suspect," Barb Balsutti said.

"I really can’t see that the Ministry would enter into an understanding … and not follow through with it in terms of the financial obligations to this memorandum."

She said the union held many meetings with the board in August.

"We don’t have any more dates set with the board, those dates to bargain have come and they’re gone, so from my perspective this decision is a day late and a dollar short."

The head of the union representing public secondary teachers in Sudbury says he’s pleased the board has signed off on the MOU.

"I was hoping that it would have happened a few months ago, but for whatever reason, I’m glad it was appended," James Clyke said.

He added he wasn’t sure what job action would have been taken if the board hadn’t agreed to the MOU.

"We wouldn’t have been able to actually walk off the job, but … on the table were a couple of things like strike actions that we did last year with regard to pulling out of extracurricular activities as well as other administrative duties."

All three groups say they’re looking forward to putting the events of the last school year behind them.