The prospect of a province-wide strike by public elementary school teachers evaporated Thursday after Canada’s largest teachers’ union agreed to take the Ontario government’s 11th-hour contract offer.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario grudgingly accepted the four-year, $700-million deal with only minutes to spare before the offer expired.
“A better deal for elementary education could have been achieved,” said union president David Clegg, who appeared more subdued Thursday after railing against the province’s new deadline just days ago.
“Unfortunately it was not, and due to (Education Minister Kathleen) Wynne’s flawed process, elementary students will now receive less than what ETFO proposed in December.”
Clegg dismissed suggestions that he was under pressure to accept what Wynne called her “final” offer, which included a 10.4 per cent pay raise over four years as Ontario braces for a recession.
The increase, which brings the top salary to about $92,700, was smaller than the 12 per cent salary boost teachers were offered in the fall.
But the revised deal still includes money for more preparation time and hiring more teachers, the government said.
Clegg was not impressed, suggesting that Ontario’s education system has always discriminated against the female-dominated profession.
But if the province is serious about forging good relations with teachers, Premier Dalton McGuinty must commit to closing a $711-per-student funding gap between elementary and high schools, Clegg said.
Earlier in the day, McGuinty urged the union to accept the “fair” offer.