Liz Sandals says talks with Ontario teachers will resume

Education Minister Liz Sandals says talks with Ontario's teachers' unions will resume following a meeting today between Premier Kathleen Wynne, union leaders and public school board representatives.
Liz Sandals says she used language Thursday that was "insensitive" and doesn't reflect her views. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Education Minister Liz Sandals says talks with Ontario's teachers' unions will resume following a meeting today between Premier Kathleen Wynne, union leaders and public school board representatives.

Sandals calls it a very positive meeting and says the unions "are committed" to getting back to the table in August and
reaching new contracts before classes begin Sept. 8. 

Representatives from four public teacher unions flew to Toronto from Ottawa for a morning to meeting with Wynne and Sandals. All sides described the meeting as generally positive but it wrapped up in less than an hour with no firm dates set for new bargaining sessions.

"It was a cordial discussion," said Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario President Sam Hammond. He added that "we need to have confirmed dates," for new talks and said "we have some issues that we need to have taken off the table."

Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said he "didn't hear anything that's changed anyone's opinion or position," during Friday's meeting but agrees it was a positive step to hear from the premier.

Sandals also spoke of a positive tone following the 40-minute meeting. 

"This wasn't about negotiating, it was about how we move forward," she told reporters. "We need to be getting back to the bargaining table during August."

No talks are currently scheduled for the three largest teachers unions and English-language school boards.

The government has said there is no new money for teacher compensation. That, along with teachers' demands for limits on class sizes, are among the major sticking point in negotiations.

Everyone emerging from Friday's meetings spoke about the need to kick-start negotiations with less than six weeks to go before students return to school.

Contracts for all 115,000 Ontario teachers expired last August, and the unions have warned of increased work-to-rule job actions if there are no agreements by September.

Some teachers unions are planning to continue work-to-rule campaigns for the fall if new agreements aren't struck. They include everything from refusing to fill out report card comments and opting not to supervising extra-curricular activities. A strike is also possible. 

With files from The Canadian Press