A proposed agreement between the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the government will lift what the union calls a two per cent "salary penalty" that has kept members' wages lower than their colleagues in the province's other boards.

The deal with Ontario would end the two per cent pay difference by Sept. 1, 2014, meaning all teacher salaries in Ontario — in the elementary, secondary, Catholic and French-language boards — will be funded in the same way. 

'Nothing could be more inequitable than having our members paid less than teachers in the same profession providing the same quality education for students.'—ETFO President Sam Hammond

The salary discrepancy, in place since 2008, has been a "longstanding injustice" that has affected some 76,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals, ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a release.

"Nothing could be more inequitable than having our members paid less than teachers in the same profession providing the same quality education for students," Hammond said in the statement Thursday.

In a news release, the Ministry of Education said that the agreement in principle "will ensure fairness and consistency across the education sector for all elementary teachers and support staff in Ontario" when a fresh round of contract negotiations begins.

Other changes in the agreement are in line with a deal ratified in April by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. Among the changes, ETFO members and employees will be provided with:

  • 11 sick days at full pay, with another 120 days at 90 per cent pay
  • Full pay for eight weeks of maternity leave, an increase from the previous six weeks
  • An enhanced retirement gratuity payout mirroring the payout for secondary school teachers
  • Representation for the creation of a health and safety task force to address issues confronting ETFO members

Minister of Education Liz Sandals said the tentative agreement will help "repair the relationship" with the education sector "and also ensures we treat our teachers fairly and equitably, regardless of where they work."

'Repair the relationship'

The Memorandum of Understanding must be ratified by ETFO members by June 23.

The extra money for the elementary teachers will cost the province $112 million a year on top of whatever raises the union negotiates next time.

The new tentative deal, which mirrors agreements with the public high school teachers, freezes the wages of most elementary educators, but still allows younger teachers to move up the salary grid.

With files from The Canadian Press