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Education minister a 'liar', says Hamilton teachers' rep

Union busting - not balancing the budget - is minister's real agenda

The province's education minister Laurel Broten is a "liar, pure and simple. This is about union busting," the president of the Hamilton bargaining committee for public secondary school teachers said on Tuesday morning.

Chantal Mancini, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) district 21 teachers bargaining unit, made the comment on Twitter following a CBC Radio interview by Broten in which she discussed the labour standoff between the provincial government and teachers.

Mancini's tweet, which she tweeted to Metro Morning, was in response to the education minister's appearance on the CBC Toronto radio program on Tuesday morning. During the interview, Broten repeatedly emphasized the government's continuing willingness "to act as a facilitator" between teachers and various school boards.

But not everyone sees the government as being such a willing partner in the ongoing dispute about a new contract for Ontario's public high school teachers.

Mancini is frustrated by what she calls Broten's "my way or the highway" approach to talks between teachers and the province.

"Essentially OSSTF has repeatedly presented a proposal that is well within the fiscal realities of the [provincial] government and there's no other reason why she would not consider it [other than union busting]," Mancini told CBC Hamilton in an interview.

Broten's appearance came on the heels of a negotiation breakdown between the province, school boards and the OSSTF on early Monday morning.

In some dispute was how negotiations came to a halt, with both sides claiming the other party walked away from the negotiating table.

"I asked everyone to stay and around 1:30 a.m. Ken [Coran] and the OSSTF decided to leave the table," Broten told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway.

"We left the government and the school boards about 1:30 a.m., so the minister is absolutely correct," OSSTF president Ken Coran told Galloway.

But Coran added that the teachers left the government "with some solutions, some ideas to consider, to further investigate, to further explore."

Broten told Galloway that one of the sticking points during negotiations was the question of when young teachers can receive a pay increase.

The province would like those increases to occur later in the year, while the OSSTF wants it to happen earlier in the year, said Broten.

While Broten said that the province "absolutely respects our teachers," she added "we also have a responsibility in this province to live within our fiscal realities.

"We simply have to say at this point in our fiscal realities that we have to take some pause, some slow down when it comes to teacher pay increases. That's what this conversation is about," she added.

Mancini, like many teachers, doesn't feel Broten is being entirely genuine in her take on the negotiations or the government's willingness to hear teachers out. Rather she feels the current impasse between teachers and the province is less about balancing the books and more the result of an unspoken  "political agenda, which would involve an anti-union agenda," said Mancini.

Hamilton's public high school teachers have chosen Nov. 19 as the date in which they'll initiate job action, joining the rest of Ontario's high school teachers in protest of the government's plans.

"We'll be taking the types of actions [the provincial OSSTF] has outlined, focusing on administrative duties and having the least impact on students as possible," Mancini told CBC Hamilton Monday.

Listen to the Metro Morning interview.

A tweet in response to Education Minister Laurel Broten's Metro Morning appearance.