OPSBA sets the Record Straight - Again

    TORONTO, Jan. 8 /CNW/ - Misleading statements made by ETFO (Elementary
Teachers' Federation of Ontario) leadership in their media conference today
obliges OPSBA to restate the facts. Everyone who is concerned about student
success and safety in Ontario's elementary schools needs to know what OPSBA
proposed in these negotiations. Our proposal focused additional resources on
improving student achievement and on providing secure and safe learning
environments. Our proposal would have provided higher salaries and more
preparation time for teachers. Our proposal offered schools the peace,
stability and confidence in continued progress that strengthens public
education for students and staff.
    The original Ministry Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) agreement was
faithfully reflected in the OPSBA Proposal to ETFO. It included a three per
cent annual salary increase for four years, compounding to 12.55 per cent by
2012, more teachers to improve class sizes, more teachers to improve student
programs and more teachers to provide more planning time for existing
teachers, PLUS improvements in benefits and other working conditions for
English public elementary teachers.
    In a media conference this morning, ETFO accused OPSBA of contract
"strips" - an inflammatory term that implies removing benefits and reducing
salary. Collective agreements do not just deal with monetary issues such as
salary. They deal with a variety of working conditions which determine how
teachers spend their time during the school day. The kinds of things boards
want to address, which the union refers to as "strips", include the following:

    -   Clarifying the provincial law which requires teachers to be present
        and available to their students in their classrooms or teaching areas
        15 minutes before the start of classes in the morning and 5 minutes
        before classes start in the afternoon
    -   Giving principals a reasonable say in how teachers use some of their
        time during the school day when they are not teaching their students
    -   Allowing principals the ability to provide reasonable amounts of
        teacher professional development after classes are let out, so that
        student instructional time is not disrupted
    -   In unusual situations, ensuring that principals will be able to
        depart from scheduled teacher supervision assignments in order to
        ensure student safety

    These are reasonable requests unequivocally related to student safety and
student achievement. The claim made by ETFO that making these proposals at the
Provincial Discussion Table somehow violated the "rules" is simply not true.
The process we have all been engaged in is called negotiations. It is the
legal venue where issues such as these are discussed and where operational
problems are resolved.
    Contrary to ETFO's assertion, it has not been the Boards but rather ETFO
who, up until now, has not been interested in meeting at the local board
level. And it was not OPSBA who left the Provincial Discussion Table. OPSBA's
member school boards have always been available to meet with ETFO to negotiate
in good faith with the funding provided by the provincial government. It is
unfortunate that the available funding is now significantly reduced because
ETFO failed to sign on to the PDT agreement.
    ETFO repeated a claim today that their proposal was costed and endorsed
by the Ministry of Education. This is not true. In a letter issued to the
media on December 17, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne confirmed that ETFO's
demands far exceeded the funding provided in the Provincial Discussion Table
    "The ETFO final proposal was not mutually agreed to by the parties and
was not within the financial parameters established by the Ministry," said
Minister Wynne. "OPSBA did raise legitimate concerns about the financial
implications created by ETFO's final proposal. The only agreement that the
Ministry would have endorsed was one that was mutually agreed upon by both
parties and within the financial parameters established by the Ministry."
    ETFO's final offer would have cost at least $463 million more over 5
years than had already been agreed by the 3 other Provincial Teachers' Unions.
    "We are dismayed that ETFO would threaten a strike given that ETFO's
leadership had every opportunity to sign a provincial agreement that would
support student success and public education," said Rick Johnson.
    The interests of our students must continue to remain the first priority
for all parties - there can be no disruption to their education. This is what
parents expect of us and what students deserve.

For further information:

For further information: Jeff Sprang, Communications, (416) 340-2540

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