Sudbury

Catholic, French teacher unions say provincial tactics set bad tone for negotiations

As English public high school teachers and the province wrestle over contract negotiations, other teacher unions in Ontario are watching, and say it’s setting a bad tone for negotiations.
Other teacher unions currently in talks with the province are keeping a close eye on what's happening between English public high school teachers and the province. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

As English public high school teachers and the province wrestle over contract negotiations, other teacher unions in Ontario are watching, and say it's setting a bad tone for negotiations.

A strike involving teachers with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation in the Sudbury, Durham and Peel regions was declared illegal on Tuesday by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The union said it plans to commence strike action again in two weeks, but the Liberal government said it will block that with back-to-work legislation.

The president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association local that represents elementary teachers in Sudbury said the province is being heavy handed.

"It's bargaining with a gun," Kent MacNeill said.

"As you know, it's pointed at you, and if you don't do what they say, they're probably going to take a couple of shots. It changes the entire way bargaining is done."

'The game is over'

MacNeill said his union is in the midst of talks, which he said are not going well. He said teachers in his union could be in a legal strike position as early as June 20.

"This heavy handed approach does send a very clear message to the unions," he said.

"It's not going to be unfettered, free negotiations. It's going to be 'do as we want or we'll simply change the legislation, change the regulations, change the act and we'll get what we want anyways'."

He compared this round of negotiation talks to playing a game of Monopoloy where someone keeps changing the rules.

"Eventually, you just say 'The game is over. We can't play this anymore'."

Talks also continue between the province and the union representing teachers with French school boards, but the head of the association, Carol Jolin, said his members will take part in a strike vote next week.

The negotiations between the union and the province are very slow, Jolin said adding his union has been keeping a close eye on what's happening with OSSTF and the province, and said it's disappointed the Ontario Labour Board ruled that strike illegal.

"It's clearly a breach in the right to strike," he said.

Education Minister Liz Sandals said the government is putting back-to-work legislation in place to keep both teachers and students in the classroom.

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