A tentative labour deal has been reached between the Ontario government and the union representing teachers at French-language schools that would extend past the next provincial election.
The deal between the province and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) is for a two-year contract from September 2017 to August 2019. The next election is scheduled for June 7, 2018.
Details of the tentative agreement were not disclosed because it must still be ratified. The AEFO represents about 10,000 French-language elementary and secondary school teachers in Ontario, both from public and Catholic school boards.
"We have entered into discussions with our education partners to build upon the gains we've made in Ontario's publicly-funded education system and to continue to give students the best educational experience possible," Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said in a news release on Tuesday.
"Our goal with respect to any collective agreement is an agreement that promotes stability in the sector, is consistent with our fiscal plan, and achieves positive results for students and for those who work in the education system."
Hunter said recent bargaining talks with the union were "extremely collaborative" and "productive."
The talks were between the ministry, the AEFO and the Council of Trustees' Associations, which includes the Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l'Ontario, and the Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques.
"This tentative agreement, if ratified, allows us to stay focused on what matters most: our students," Hunter said.
"We are still realizing the benefits from the last round of labour negotiations."
Union calls deal 'excellent news'
AEFO President Rémi Sabourin said the union is pleased that a tentative deal has been reached.
"The agreement is excellent news, not only for our teachers, but also for our students, for the school boards and for the government. The agreement assures stability for our school system until 2019," he said.
Sabourin said details of the deal will remain confidential until it is ratified by its members. He said the ratification vote will take place by mid-February to give its members some time to review the deal.
Contracts expire August 31, 2017
According to media reports, the province has been quietly engaging in bargaining talks with unions that represent teachers and education workers in Ontario.
These include the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA).
The province is believed to have offered contract extensions to the unions hoping to achieve labour peace in the months leading up to the election.
Talks with the OSSTF have reportedly broken off.
The education minister would only confirm that the province had "also successfully concluded" contract extension discussions with Unifor locals in the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board and Avon Maitland District School Board as well as CUPE Local 27.
"We are in the process of confirming additional dates with other groups over the coming weeks to continue our discussions on remedy and the possibility of contract extensions," Hunter said in a statement to CBC Toronto, but would not provide more detail.
Teacher and education worker contracts with the unions currently expire on Aug. 31, 2017.