Thunder Bay

Local teachers' union leaders in Toronto gearing up for 'big fight' as contracts expire at end of month

The teachers' union leaders from Thunder Bay, Ont. are in Toronto this week attending provincial meetings and gearing up for what they expect to be a lengthy and contentious contract renegotiation process over the upcoming year.

Elementary Teachers' and Secondary School Teachers' Federations hold meetings this week in Toronto, Ont

Local teachers' union leaders are in Toronto, Ont. this week to attend their annual general meetings and prepare for upcoming contract renegotiations. Teachers' contracts with the Ontario government expire at the end of August. (Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario)

The teachers' union leaders from Thunder Bay, Ont. are in Toronto this week attending provincial meetings and gearing up for what they expect to be a lengthy and contentious contract renegotiation process over the upcoming year.

Mike Judge, president of Lakehead Elementary Teachers of Ontario, the local unit for the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), said there have been a lot of discussions about the upcoming negotiations among union leaders from across the province. He said everyone expects it to be a big battle with the provincial government.

"We know we're probably in for a big fight with this government. They certainly put everyone on notice that education is not one of their priorities and they're looking to cut costs wherever possible. So we're gearing up for what we believe will be a fight to defend publicly funded education."

Both ETFO and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) are holding their province-wide union meetings this week to "conduct the business of the union and set the course for the upcoming year." One of the major topics being discussed are the upcoming expiration of the teachers' contracts with the provincial government, which will take place at the end of August.

In anticipation of a lengthy renegotiation process, Judge filed a motion at the ETFO annual meeting calling for every local bargaining unit to receive $100,000 from the central union's defense fund to support the costs of negotiations.

He said the aim of the motion is to let school boards know that stalling tactics or not coming to the table will not work in the future.

"In the past, we've seen some boards - not my board [Lakehead Public Schools] - where they would essentially wait locals out until they ran out of money, knowing at that point they would simply have to walk away from the table and not be able to make progress on the collective agreements. I believe this motion will stop that practice from happening."

Judge added his motion has received a lot of attention and it demonstrates union leaders' concerns about what may happen during the upcoming contract renegotiations.

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