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Catholic trustees press Ontario for more time to negotiate with teachers

Education Minister Laurel Broten has urged trustees to review the terms of the English Catholic teachers’ agreement more closely, but so far, public, Francophone and Catholic boards have all refused.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's Catholic school trustees are asking the province for more time to negotiate with teachers but refuse to accept changes to hiring practices they fear will erode their powers.

Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association president Marino Gazzola sent a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty Tuesday, asking him not to impose terms through legislation and to allow more time beyond Aug. 31 for bargaining at the local level.

His association has agreed to work within the fiscal parameters of the Premier's proposed teacher's contract but refuses to agree to make seniority play a major role in teacher hiring decisions.

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"We have to have the right to hire the best person for the job," Mr. Gazzola said.

Minister of Education Laurel Broten said she was "surprised" by the letter, especially given the fact that Catholic trustees left the bargaining table just eight hours before the province reached an agreement with the English Catholic teachers' union.

That agreement lays out changes to standard hiring practices aimed at preventing nepotism and cronyism. They would require teachers to complete at least one four-month substitute assignment before becoming eligible for permanent hire.

"A lot of folks have said we're forcing them to hire from the top of the seniority list and nothing could be further from the truth," Ms. Broten said.

She has urged trustees to review the terms of the English Catholic teachers' agreement more closely, but so far, public, francophone and Catholic boards have all refused.

The only exception is the Toronto Catholic School Board, which signed the deal last week that has yet to be finalized by the union's local bargaining unit.

The government wants a two-year salary freeze to help eliminate the province's $15-billion deficit.

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In exchange, it is promising to preserve full-day kindergarten and protect caps on elementary class sizes.

Mr. McGuinty's government is pushing school boards to lock down local agreements with teachers by the end of the month, hoping to avoid $473-million in bankable sick days and pay raises that will otherwise take effect.

His government has threatened to introduce legislation that would impose a wage freeze if the school boards can't get the job done, something NDP Leader Andrea Horwath vowed Tuesday her party would not support.

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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