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Board, union unsure how many teachers will take retirement carrot

Students won’t be disrupted, human resources boss says

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s human resources boss says he doesn’t expect students to experience any disruptions from an incentive program offering long-serving school teachers $5,000 to retire by the end of January.

Superintendent Pat Rocco said he “couldn’t even hazard to guess” how many will take up the offer, intended to help the board meet provincial cost-cutting requirements, but any who do so will retire before the second semester begins.

He said the Early Retirement Incentive Plan is necessary because other measures didn’t meet the overall savings target.

The retirements will save money because the board will be able to replace experienced teachers at the top of their pay scale with new ones at the bottom.

“In the government’s mind, it would encourage teachers who are eligible to retire, to retire,” Rocco said.

“I don’t think I’ll get a flood of retirements, to be honest. I don’t see that happening, but who knows? Since it’s a personal decision, it’s really impossible for the board to gauge who may be interested.”

The incentive stems from an April agreement between the province and Ontario’s teacher unions reached in the wake of a bitter dispute over Bill 115, which imposed a concessionary two-year contract that froze wages.

The deal requires all regular teachers at all school boards to take the equivalent of two unpaid days off work, including a mandatory professional activity day on Dec. 20.

To make up the second day, the agreement provided for a voluntary leave of absence program allowing teachers to take up to five unpaid days off.

But Rocco said unpaid leaves and some savings from an Oct. 11 professional day weren’t enough to match the savings from having all teachers take the second unpaid day, triggering the retirement incentive plan.

Eligible teachers have until Jan. 16 to apply and must give at least two weeks’ notice, meaning all would be gone by Jan. 30, one day before the second semester starts.

“This would not be a disruption to students,” Rocco said. “Most teachers would complete their semester and the retire with the incentive that is being offered by the government.”

Chantal Mancini, chair of Hamilton’s high school teachers’ local, said she’s not sure how many of her members will take the retirement incentive and those who are eligible will have “to decide whether it’s worth it to them, personally.”

But she noted the cost-saving measures go beyond those in Bill 115, which imposed the two-year wage freeze, ended retirement payouts of up to six months of unused sick days and cut annual sick days to 10 from 20.

“They didn’t give us a wage freeze, they gave us a wage cut,” Mancini said, adding her members are wary of what will happen when their existing contract expires at the end of August.

“I think there’s almost a sense of, ‘What’s next? Bill 122? What’s next, what’s coming down the tube next?’”

To qualify for the retirement incentive, teachers must be retiring from the profession, be at least 50 years old on their retirement date and be eligible for a pension under the Teachers’ Pension Act.

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