By Richard Leitner
METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has reached a tentative contract settlement with its high school teachers, averting job action that was set to begin Monday morning (Nov. 19).
“This is great news for the secondary staff and students,” board chair Tim Simmons said in a news release announcing the deal, reached late Sunday.
“We know this has been a challenging process but reaching this tentative agreement shows the commitment of both parties to our students.”
Chantal Mancini, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation of Hamilton-Wentworth, said she couldn’t discuss details of the settlement, which must first be approved by the province before it goes to members for ratification.
“We reached a deal. We’ll leave it at that,” she said when asked how she feels about the result. “It respects the government’s financial parameters.”
The settlement, which also covers occasional teachers, came as her members were set to join their counterparts at 30 school boards in refusing to attend staff meetings, fill in for absent colleagues or talk to parents outside school hours.
As of Monday, the OSSTF had reached tentative deals at five boards. Those who joined the strike action include the union representing the Hamilton public board’s office, clerical, technical and professional student services workers.
The central issue in the showdown is the Liberal government’s decision to impose a framework for new contracts through Bill 115, officially known as the Putting Students First Act, which was accepted by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association in July. It includes a two-year wage freeze, an end to retirement payouts for up to six months of unused sick days and a 50 per cent cut in annual sick days.
Bill 115 also bans strike action for two years, a prohibition that kicks in after Dec. 31, the deadline for teachers and support staff to reach a deal before one is imposed on them. But it also gives Education Minister Laurel Broten the power to intervene in any dispute before then.
Mancini said she didn’t want to speculate on whether Broten will accept the deal reached in Hamilton.
“I would hope so,” she said.