By Richard Leitner, News Staff
A tentative contract agreement between the Hamilton public school board and its high school teachers still needs Ministry of Education approval but has averted strike action for now.
Board chair Tim Simmons said he’s pleased with the deal, reached late Sunday, just hours before teachers were to begin curtailing activities outside the classroom.
“I can’t speculate on what the ministry’s going to decide and I just hope they get back to us in short order,” he said following a board meeting on Monday evening.
“But we’re confident it meets the parameters around Bill 115.”
Chantal Mancini, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation of Hamilton-Wentworth, said she couldn’t discuss details of the settlement and awaiting the ministry’s OK before taking it to her members.
“We reached a deal. We’ll leave it at that,” she said when asked how she feels about the final result. “It respects the government’s financial parameters.”
The agreement, which also covers occasional teachers, came as her members were set to join their counterparts at 30 school boards in refusing to attend staff meetings, fill in for absent colleagues or talk to parents outside school hours.
As of Monday, the OSSTF had reached tentative deals at five boards. Those who still without contracts include the OSSTF local that represents the Hamilton public board’s office, clerical, technical and profession student services workers.
The OSSTF’s Web site listed the local among ones joining the job action this week.
The central issue in the showdown is the Liberal government’s decision to impose a framework for new contracts through Bill 115, officially known as the Putting Students First Act.
The framework, accepted by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association in July, includes a two-year wage freeze, an end to retirement payouts for up to six months of unused sick days and a cut in annual sick days to 10 from 20.
Bill 115 also bans strike action for two years, a prohibition that kicks in after Dec. 31, the deadline for teachers and support staff to reach a deal before one is imposed on them.
But it also gives Education Minister Laurel Broten the power to intervene in any dispute before then.
Mancini said she didn’t want to speculate on whether Broten will accept the deal reached in Hamilton.
“I would hope so,” she said. “Two parties sat down in good faith and bargained. That’s good news within in all of this, so we’ll see what happens.”