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Negotiations with teachers continue as contracts set to expire

It’s only a few weeks until classes resume at Ontario schools and teachers’ contracts are set to expire before students return to class.

The unions representing teachers say talks are underway and staff will be in the classroom whether a deal is reached before then or not.

In Ontario, bargaining for teachers first happens at the provincial or central level and then at the local level.

Barb Blasutti is president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario representing teachers with the Rainbow Board. She says talks are currently happening at the central level.

“They’ve only met a few times,” she said. “The talks at the central level are indeed progressing. I understand they have been respectful.”

Blasutti says once a deal is reached at the central or provincial level, local talks will start. She will be involved in that process.

“It’s not a quick process given how many different parties are attempting to negotiate at the same time,” she said.

“Our culture in education is that we do work under an expired contract. I don’t ever recall a time in my decades of history where we’re actually negotiated a contract prior to its termination and started fresh under a brand new agreement.”

For secondary teachers, talks are stalled. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has called in the Ontario Labour Relations Board to determine which issues should be discussed centrally and which ones should be sorted out locally. A decision is expected on Aug. 22.

Eric Laberge is the district president for the union representing teachers in the Sudbury area.

“We anticipate that they will be fairly difficult negotiations and possibly contentious ones,” he said.

“But we have to remain optimistic that we can get a deal done.”

In a statement to CBC News, Ontario’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, says it’s important a deal be reached.

“I continue to call on all parties to reach a deal as soon as possible to provide predictability and confidence to parents, students and educators alike,” he said.

“We will continue to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a deal that makes sure students are in the class in the fall. We look forward to continuing our work with all our partners.”

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