Teachers from St. George Catholic elementary school in Byron, Ontario demonstrates AIM, or the Accelerated Integrated Method, which integrates gestures, drama, music and dance into the process of teaching.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
Provincial negotiators, determined to bring Ontario's $16-billion deficit under control, want to freeze teacher pay for two years and eliminate expensive sick day perks, QMI Agency has learned.
Upon hearing the demand, negotiators for public elementary teachers opted to boycott further talks with the province.
Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), told the union's 76,000 members that the government's plans are "offensive" and "mean-spirited."
"To say we were insulted is an understatement," Hammond told members in a letter dated Feb. 29.
Four-year pacts with Ontario's nearly 115,000 teachers expire Aug. 31. Under their contact, ETFO teachers received pay hikes of 2%,2%, 3%, and 3% a year. Teachers with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association were given increases of 3% in each of the four years.
Along with a pay freeze, the new Liberal proposal would scrap the system under which teachers can bank their sick days and cash in upon retirement.
Instead, accumulated sick days would be frozen as of the end of August 2012 and replaced with a new system allowing teachers six fully-paid sick days a year, with reduced-pay sick days after that.
In his letter to members, Hammond blasted the government proposal presented to ETFO staff on Feb. 22.
"We find the tone and, most significantly, the content of the government's parameters to be offensive to all EFTO members and cannot be a party to what amounts to deep and mean-spirited strips to our collective agreements that would negatively affect every member at every stage of their career," he wrote.
In protest, the union decided not to attend talks with the government slated for March 5 and 6.
In London, Ont., Phillip Mack, president of the ETFO's Thames Valley local, called the Liberal government's proposal "rather Draconian."
"It attacks every fundamental pillar of our collective agreement," he said.
Mack said the Liberals' proposal is worse than the New Democrats' "Rae Days" freezes in the early '90s and Conservative premier Mike Harris' treatment of teachers later that decade.
When the Tories under Harris targeted teachers, they were met with strikes and labour unrest.
When Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty came to power, he quickly made peace with teachers and has taken steps such as introducing full-day kindergarten, attracting a reputation as "the education premier."