Thunder Bay teachers union balks at Liberal plan

A Thunder Bay teacher's union says legislation proposed by the province on Thursday amounts to interference in the bargaining process and puts negotiators in a box.

Teachers at the local level want to be able to negotiate without provincial interference, union leader says

A Thunder Bay teacher's union says legislation proposed by the province on Thursday amounts to interference in the bargaining process and puts negotiators in a box.

The legislation will force all boards to meet the financial terms struck with Catholic teachers, including freezing teachers' salaries.

"Our members are not expecting to get salary increases," said Paul Caccamo, the president of the union local representing public secondary school teachers.

 "What they are expecting to do is to sit down and embark on the process with local boards where we share ideas and work collaboratively," he said. "This is what has been done for decades in this province."

Caccamo added the proposed legislation is presumptuous, as negotiations between union locals and boards haven’t started.

Labour relations rights 'ignored'

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond said the 76,000 teachers he represents don't like what the province is up to either.

"To blatantly ignore constitutional rights and the labour relation rights in this province, it's extremely disappointing and problematic," he said.

Education Minister Laurel Broten has not minced words in her dealings with the province's teachers. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Education minister Laurel Broten said teachers must sign collective agreements with school boards across the province by Sept. 1.

The terms consistent with the deal the province reached with Ontario's Catholic teachers, including a two year wage freeze, three unpaid professional development days and eliminating the pay-out of unused sick days on retirement.

"Our choices are: do we want full day kindergarten or do we want more teacher pay?" Broten said in an interview with CBC Radio. "Do we want smaller class sizes or more teacher pay? Do we want jobs, or more teacher pay?"

If deals aren't reached by the deadline, Broten said the rollover of contracts and sick days could cost almost $500 million — money Broten said should go into the classrooms instead.

Click on the audio link to hear Broten's interview on CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning program.