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What’s happening in Rainbow Schools?

OPSBA Sets the Record Straight about Negotiations with ETFO

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Toronto – The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) held a media conference today to set the record straight with respect to the recent Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) talks with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) that were facilitated by the Ministry of Education.  Since the extended deadline of last Friday passed, conflicting and inaccurate information has been presented to the public about proposed offers for settlement. OPSBA strongly believes that the public needs to know and understand the details about the offer rejected by ETFO.

The original Ministry Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) agreement was faithfully reflected in the OPSBA Proposal to ETFO. It included a three per cent annual salary increase for four years, compounding to 12.55 per cent by 2012, more teachers to improve class sizes, more teachers to improve student programs and more teachers to provide more planning time for existing teachers, PLUS improvements in benefits and other working conditions for English public elementary teachers.

Provincial School Boards’ Associations have successfully negotiated 6 (PDT) Agreements with 3 Teachers’ Unions and 3 Support Staff Unions over the past year.  In the public school sector, OPSBA and the public school boards have successfully negotiated contracts with secondary teachers and all support staff unions. That is our track record.

“It takes two committed parties to reach an agreement. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) did not present themselves as a committed party in our talks last week. It was overwhelmingly obvious and it is truly regrettable,” said Rick Johnson, past president of OPSBA. “ETFO’s suggestion that the Ministry approved the additional costs that ETFO identified in their final offer to OPSBA is incorrect. We were there.”

The Ministry did not sign off or approve any additional funding.  The Ministry made it very clear from the outset that there would be no more government money for the ETFO PDT Agreement than had already been agreed to by the other unions.

“When talks broke off at the midnight Friday deadline, the Minister issued a very neutral, even handed media release,” said Rick Johnson. “Given the facts we are sharing today, we are disappointed in the media release, but understand the Minister’s need to remain neutral in this volatile situation.”

ETFO came to the table with demands far in excess of the Ministry’s economic template. Our conservative calculations estimate at least $463 MILLION MORE over 5 years than had already been agreed by the 3 other Provincial Teachers’ Unions. ETFO Executive has known the basic conditions of the PDT agreement for many months.  Last Friday, literally at the final hour, ETFO made demands that went far beyond those agreed to by all other unions. They made no effort to cost out their demands and they expressed no concern that the demands went far beyond the parameters of the provincial framework agreement. This could not possibly form the basis for an agreement – for two key reasons:

•    ETFO’s negotiators wanted to change the basic salary increase provisions of the provincial framework agreement, which they have known for months and which other teachers and support staff unions have signed.

•    ETFO’s bargaining team made other demands including extra preparation time that far exceeded the government’s financial parameters. Despite knowing the limits of the financial package for over 7 months they made demands that would have cost at least an additional $463 million over 5 years.

ETFO’s Final Offer (received by OPSBA’s negotiating team about 1 1/2 hours before the midnight December 5th deadline) exceeded the funding provided by the Province by an estimated $273M over 4 years and would have left Boards with an annual funding shortfall of approximately $190M in 2012-13 and future years. It would have meant re-allocating money from already-stretched budgets where every penny is needed for students and classroom programs. It would have put many, if not all Public Boards in a deficit situation. It would have created unfair differences in the provisions of contracts already agreed to by the 3 other Teachers’ unions, the Support Staff Unions and even support staff unions within ETFO itself.


“One factor that needs little explanation is the impact of the world-wide recession that currently is having very real and often devastating effects on families in Ontario. It’s been labeled an ‘economic tsunami’ and the worst economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930’s,” said Rick Johnson. “Unfortunately for our students, elementary teachers will never get the opportunity to vote on the OPSBA offer.”

Ironically, on the last days of talks, ETFO agreed to the PDT Agreement for its 4 Support Staff units which it represents in the province. Last Friday, ETFO signed and ratified 4 local support staff collective agreements based on this PDT Agreement, in time to meet the Minister’s deadline of midnight December 5. No extra demands were made by ETFO in those support staff negotiations.

Everyone who is concerned about student success and safety in Ontario’s elementary schools needs to know what OPSBA proposed in these negotiations. Our proposal focused additional resources on improving student achievement and on providing secure and safe learning environments.  Our proposal would have provided higher salaries and more preparation time for teachers.  Our proposal offered schools the peace, stability and confidence in continued progress that strengthens public education for students and staff.

Clarity is needed on ETFO’s offer to “forgo” a salary increase in the fourth year of the deal to pay for preparation time. This offer also called for an additional 1% in the second year of the deal, beyond the 3% for which boards would be funded. This 4% increase for the 2009-10 year would have been built into the cost base and rolled over to each of the third and fourth years as well. The net result would not have been “savings” as ETFO claims. Their members would not have been out of pocket by a penny. In fact, they would receive their money earlier than other unions. The offer in fact does nothing to pay for further preparation time demands which are radically out of line with the Ministry’s funding formula.

In good faith, OPSBA on behalf of Public School Boards, has successfully negotiated provincial agreements with all other employee groups, including secondary teachers. Our proposal was a good deal for teachers.

We have confidence in the integrity and value to students, teachers and parents of our proposal. We are pleased to share it – to set the record straight.  We have posted on our web site ( the complete proposal made by OPSBA to ETFO on Friday, December 5th – the complete proposal within the funded PDT parameters that they rejected.  We have also provided the ETFO final proposal and back up materials.  We invite you to judge them for yourselves.

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For more information, please contact:

Jeff Sprang

OPSBA Communications

(416) 340-2540