Teachers, board pleased deal reached

Heather Latter

After many months of intense negotiations, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation District 5B and Rainy River District School Board reached a tentative agreement late last week.
Both parties seem pleased with the outcome.
“You can’t get everything you want—that’s bargaining,” noted local OSSTF president Kent Kowalski.
“But we were able to bargain on Friday while still holding the parts we felt were our most important points,” he added.
“We wouldn’t have settled for something that undermined our position for what was so important for the members to strike over . . . so we are happy with that portion and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Kowalski stressed.
“The board is very happy, very pleased a tentative agreement could be reached for the start of school,” said board chair Dianne McCormack.
“That was our hope all along. It’s good news.”
In some of the more recent bargaining sessions, it seemed headway had been made on several issues. But the outstanding one remained regarding redundant teachers.
Kowalski indicated the union’s important points pertaining to that issue remained intact.
“That was a key piece for us,” he remarked.
McCormack said it came down to clarification of some of the language.
“Just a better understanding around the piece regarding recalling redundant teachers,” she noted, adding both parties are open to revisiting that language at the end of this contract, which is set to expire next year.
“It’s not automatically rolling over, but we are both open to revisiting it because it is new language,” McCormack stressed.
“It’s not included in agreements anywhere, so it’s not something we were looking to embed into the agreement,” she admitted.
“But both parties said they were open to discussions,” she added.
“Discussions continued and clarifications were made.”
Kowalski said it was a face-to-face meeting with Director of Education Heather Campbell that helped to reach the tentative agreement.
“It gave us the nuances that you miss when you are working through [a mediator] to get a local deal,” he noted.
“We discussed all the outstanding issues, what the words meant, what it meant to each other, and what we could do to accommodate each other’s concerns and make a deal.”
With a tentative deal reached, OSSTF has withdrawn its strike action, which included teachers not providing any extra-curricular activities.
The one-day weekly strikes, which were held by teachers from April through June, already had been suspended.
Kowalski was busy yesterday visiting district high schools to present the information to OSSTF members, who will vote on the deal tomorrow.
The board, meanwhile, will present the agreement to trustees at its regular meeting this Tuesday (Sept. 6).
Specific details of the agreement will be provided post-ratification.
“We’re looking forward to the application of everything we’ve agreed to,” Kowalski remarked, adding he hopes the agreement can pave the way for the two sides to mend their combative relationship and to work collaboratively together.
“Moving forward, we’re looking to positive relations and uninterrupted activities for this school year,” echoed McCormack.
The two parties are hopeful their renewed co-operation will carry forward as they still have the OSSTF occasional teachers’ collective agreement left to settle.
The bargaining for that was put on hold with the focus on the OSSTF deal.
“But we’re hoping this will go smoothly,” Kowalski said.
“We’re hopeful we’ll be able to work through it as quickly and fairly as possible,” agreed McCormack.