Toronto Teachers’ Union Opposes Strike-Averting Arbitration Deal


The Toronto high school teachers’ bargaining unit has voiced its opposition to a tentative agreement with the provincial government that could avert a strike through voluntary binding arbitration. This understanding was brokered by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Ontario Government in late August. The arrangement specifies that if no collective agreement is reached by October 27, an independent mediator would resolve the unresolved issues.

Members of OSSTF are expected to vote on the acceptance of this agreement on September 8 and September 27. The OSSTF Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit Executive, however, made it clear in a memo to members on September 7 that they oppose voluntary arbitration. They noted the concerns over giving up their rights to strike or selective withdrawal of services, important tools historically in the labour movement. They feared the precedence this might set for education workers and the overall labour movement.

Bonding arbitration is also argued to infringe the members’ rights to vote on the final agreement. The bargaining executive asserted that their goal is not to sway the votes but to share their concerns for the members’ informed decisions.

Similar concerns have been echoed by Ontario’s three other teachers’ unions, who have all rejected the government’s proposal. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has decided to proceed with conciliation, a formal mediation process involving a neutral third party, rather than accepting binding arbitration.

Yet, OSSTF President Karen Littlewood sees the potential benefits of binding arbitration and calls it a “welcome” development. Five OSSTF bargaining dates are booked in September and another six in October. If the members vote against accepting the tentative deal, they will likely move forward with a strike vote or other measures to reach agreement. Despite the potential for resistance, Littlewood remains hopeful that a strike can be avoided.

After a lengthy 14 month bargaining period, the team aims to encourage the government to commit more actively to the bargaining process. A spokesperson for the Education Minister Steven Lecce reiterated their call for other unions to agree to their binding arbitration framework, emphasizing the government’s determination to ensure uninterrupted learning for Ontario’s children.

It’s worth noting that teachers and some education workers have remained without a contract for over a year.


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