The summer months didn’t reflect the usual downtime for those involved in education in Ontario.
Instead, labour negotiations were underway between Ontario’s teachers and the school boards. But it didn’t come without its challenges. CCSTA wants to share this story with our partners across the country, showcasing just how quickly the government can try to overrule a trustee’s vital role – speaking and working on behalf of the ratepayer.
For five months, the team representing the interests of Ontario’s Catholic boards, including the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, participated in negotiations with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), until an impasse was reached on July 4. As is the case in any negotiation, it was the legal right of the team to withdraw when it was clear the parties would not come to a mutually acceptable agreement. At this stage, typical procedure under both the Education Act and the Labour Relations Act would allow local boards (in the case of Ontario’s system, all 29 boards) to begin negotiations with OECTA’s local units in an effort to sign collective agreements.
The next day, however, the expectations changed. OECTA instead signed an agreement with the Minster of Education, despite not being the legal employer. Regardless, that deal moved into legislation without the school boards providing their consent. OCSTA doesn’t recognize this agreement, as no employer group acting on behalf of Catholic boards signed this agreement.
What does this agreement between OECTA and the Minister of Education mean for trustees?
“This affects the trustee’s role as they are elected to represent the interests of ratepayers including management and employer functions,” explains OCSTA’s Bob Murray. “The government brought that role into question, ultimately subverting their rights.”
Following this summer’s experience, Murray offers insight for any trustee in Canada.
“The most disturbing element is, without any kind of consultation, the rights of schools board were scrapped because they didn’t meet the government’s interests of the day,” he says. “So the status of school boards and role of trustees are in serious question. Ratepayers have expectations that they vote in trustees to speak on their behalf. But when those interests don’t meet the government’s agenda, we learned they can simply move around them.”
CCSTA continues to work with its member boards and other educational partners to address this situation.