TORONTO — A second education-sector union in Ontario has agreed to a contract that should ensure some labour peace through the next election.
The new, two-year contract reached with the French teachers' union — Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens — means the Liberal government will have fewer sets of potentially contentious negotiations leading into 2018.
Over the weekend, the government reached a two-year contract extension agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 55,000 school support staff.
The current contracts with CUPE, AEFO and the other teachers' unions are set to expire this August, so if ratified, these new deals would last until August 2019 — well after the June 2018 election.
The government has not disclosed any terms, but drew a distinction between CUPE's contract "extension" and AEFO's "new" two-year deal. It has also not clarified how the current deal's salary increases — a one-per-cent lump sum payment and a one-per-cent raise in 2016, with a further 0.5 per cent in 2017 — would carry through an additional two years.
"Our goal with respect to any collective agreement is an agreement that promotes stability in the sector, is consistent with our fiscal plan, and achieves positive results for students and for those who work in the education system," Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said in a statement.
The last round of negotiations were contentious, with support staff and elementary teachers staging work-to-rule campaigns and the government threatening to dock their pay. Securing contract extensions past the June 2018 election would ensure the government doesn't have to contend with such job action in the lead-up to the vote.
The government also took heat during the last set of talks for the costs incurred during the lengthy bargaining. Three unions were promised $2.5 million to cover their negotiation costs.
That was in addition to more than $1 million the government gave unions in previous rounds of bargaining because of preparations for the new legislation, $4.6 million the government gave to school boards and more than $1 million Ontario spent on its own negotiation costs.
Contract extension talks arose as part of discussions with education-sector unions over a court ruling that said the government violated their collective bargaining rights.
Legislation in 2012, known as Bill 115, imposed contracts on teachers that froze some of their wages and limited their ability to strike, so five unions took the government to court. The judge sided with them, but left the question of a remedy up to the government and unions to decide.