Catholic teachers are first to reach tentative agreement

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ONTARIO – The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) announced last Thursday that it has reached a tentative agreement with the province, becoming the first of four publicly funded school boards in the province to potentially conclude its job action.

“Details of the agreement remain confidential pending ratification. In accordance with the association’s ratification procedures, should the OECTA provincial executive and local unit presidents recommend approval, Catholic teachers will participate in a province-wide vote on April 7 and 8,” read a statement from OECTA president Liz Stuart issued on March 12.

Because of the pending ratification process, the union has suspended all its strike action.

“Our government achieved our foremost priority—landing a good deal with a teachers’ union that advances the priorities of students and parents,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement.

Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents educators in Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) schools, have begun negotiating with the province as well. L’association des enseignantes et enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), which represents French-language schools, is also engaged in discussions.

There are no updates about ETFO since last week’s story about that union also resuming negotiations with the province.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) is the lone board that has not resumed talks. It has, however, paused its rotating strikes but increased its limited withdrawal of administrative services (since that union represents school administration workers in other settings such as elementary schools). The high school union has also indefinitely postponed its annual meeting of its provincial assembly due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 has also disrupted classes in Ontario, with the province announcing on March 12 that it would be closing all publicly-funded schools for two weeks following March Break, which is this current week. Classes are set to resume April 6.

Alberta has taken a stronger approach and has announced its schools will be closed indefinitely.

Minister Lecce said he was encouraged by the OECTA tentative deal and hoped that the other unions would soon follow suit.

“The time is now to drive deals with all remaining union partners as parents expect action, not delays. We agree and will remain a positive and driving force at the bargaining table, advancing the priorities of parents and students,” he said in the statement.