NIAGARA – Looks like there won’t be labour peace at Niagara’s public high schools – at least not yet.
Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation Dsitrict 22 have voted to reject a tentative agreement negotiated between their union and the District School Board of Niagara.
Full results of the vote have not yet been made public, however the following notice has been posted to the DSBN’s website as an update on the status of negotiations:
“The DSBN has received notification the tentative agreement was not ratified by members of OSSTF District 22. As a result, job action will resume on Wednesday morning, Nov. 28.”
News of the vote quickly made its way to Queen’s Park, where Education Minister Larel Broten told the Toronto Star she’s “disappointed” by results in Niagara and in York, which also failed to ratify.
A similar ratification vote at the Upper Grand District School Board affirmed the tentative agreement.
Last week, Broten gave her blessing to the Niagara agreement, saying it was compatible with the provisions of the Putting Students First Act, the controversial legislation the government enacted earlier this year as part of its deficit-busting efforts.
The same day, Broten also gave her blessing to agreements reached between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and three other school boards – Hamilton-Wentworth District, Thames Valley and Avon Maitland.
“Congratulations to the leadership at these school boards and OSSTF teacher locals for their focus on finding a pathway forward that meets our fiscal parameters while protecting full-day kindergarten, small class sizes, and teaching jobs,” said Broten at the time.
“These tentative agreements show what’s possible when we continue to work with our partners to find solutions that put students first and follow two additional agreements that were deemed workable earlier this week.”
The Putting Students First Act gives time for local bargaining to continue until Dec. 31, 2012 to allow school boards and local unions to conclude local collective agreements.
The tentative agreements had been touted by Broten and the province as proof that negotiated settlements were possible.
“These tentative agreements show what’s possible when we continue to work with our partners to find solutions that put students first,” Broten said last week.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recalled the Legislature two weeks early to bring in the ant-strike, wage-freeze legislation that rankled unions and led to some teachers withdrawing from extracurricular activities and participating in other work-to-rule measures.
Bill 115 was passed with the help of opposition leader Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives, who stood with the government members despite decrying the legislation as not going far enough.
The legislation has caused a serious rift inside the Liberal party, which seems to be growing now that there’s a seven-way race to replace McGuinty as Liberal leader and premier.
Some Liberals have openly voiced their objections to aspects of the legislation from the beginning.
Liberal leadership hopeful and former Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy and Niagara Falls Liberal MPP Kim Craitor speak with reporters in Niagara Falls, Thursday evening. Bullet News photo by John Robbins.
Niagara Falls MPP Liberal MPP Kim Craitor, a former district labour council president, drew flak from the Tories when he skipped the final vote on Bill 115.
In an interview with Bullet News earlier this year, the independent-minded Craitor acknowledged he skipped the vote because he has concerns about overriding the collective bargaining process and about the impact the freeze could have on lower paid school board employees.
“It’s a challenge for me,” said Craitor. “This idea of imposing (a settlement) does go against what I believe in.”
Former Liberal education minister Gerard Kennedy, who is one of the seven candidates running for the leadership, chatted with local Liberals during a stop in Niagara Falls on last week.
Craitor has publicly endorsed Kennedy for leader.
Among the crowd at the event were a number of teachers, who had the opportunity to question Kennedy about his stance on Bill 115.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Kennedy said he wins the leadership contest and becomes the next premier he won’t use the provisions of Bill 115 to force settlements.
“And I would restore collective bargaining rights,” said Kennedy. “Because I believe the best outcome is one that is negotiated.”
Still, said Kennedy, no other party can match the Liberal government’s track record on education during the past nine years.
“No party can match the amount of success the Liberal party has had in delivering for students through good relationships with teachers, through innovative programs, through commitment to funding, sometimes at times of great difficulty,” said Kennedy.