OSSTF bargaining stops as OPSEU talks start

Negotiations between the government and Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) have broken off.  OSSTF vice-president, Harvey Bischof said that the provincial government walked away from the bargaining table, leaving the union little choice but to step up their efforts. OSSTF is now planning job action at 20 school boards.

OSSTF president Ken Coran added, “It blows me away that they ended discussions when there still were suggestions to be explored — we felt close on a number of issues."

Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten called proposed OSSTF job action “disappointing" and suggested that negotiations at the provincial level are no longer possible.  Broten also said that under Bill 115, the province has “the tools to act and will fully explore these options” as teachers begin their job actions.

New Options

Meanwhile, Gerard Kennedy has declared he will run to replace McGuinty as the Liberal leader, and has suggested he would take a different path.  Telling the CBC that he will bring "different approaches" to the party, he indicated he would move away from using legislation to settle labour negotiations with teachers. “I don’t need legislation to get labour deals," Kennedy said. 

Kennedy also said he would consider repealing Bill 115:  “If scrapping the bill would be the key thing to doing that, I have no compunction about doing that whatsoever. There has to be a fair negotiation.”

If words count for anything (always a little doubtful for Liberal politicians, based on my experience), this sounds like stronger  support for free collective bargaining than the position taken last week by another leading Liberal leadership candidate, Kathleen Wynne. She made some effort to distance herself from McGuinty's heavy handed approach, but refused to contemplate repealing 115.

New Bargaining
OPSEU and the provincial government start formal negotiations tomorrow for an agreement covering tens of thousands of provincial public servants. OPSEU says this contract is about protecting public services:

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said this contract is about protecting quality public services for all Ontarians.

“Public jobs make public services work,” said Thomas. “The people of Ontario have learned an expensive lesson with eHealth, Ornge and private ServiceOntario kiosks. Privatizing public services is a failed experiment that results in less accountability and public dollars going into the pockets of private business as profits.”

45 different events will be held across the province on Nov. 13 for OPSEU members to support their bargaining teams and send a message that services must be protected.

“Our collective agreement is a barrier to the government from completely dismantling the services Ontarians rely on,” said Thomas. “This isn’t about wage freezes or concessions. This is about the future of our province, and protecting accountable, reliable and cost-effective services.” (November 12 OPSEU statement)

Bargaining Prospects
Will McGuinty actually bargain or has he let himself be pushed too far into a corner by the Progressive Conservative (anti-) collective bargaining agenda? That will soon be known. He has very little time left. 

If he does not get a deal, he will go out with the same failure to create social consensus that helped him defeat the Progressive Conservatives -- a failure that came through collective bargaining policies taken in large part from the Progressive Conservatives.   To boot, he may be replaced by a new Liberal leader who takes a different approach.  

That can't be a nice thought for him.  

OCHU's central agreement with Ontario hospitals expires September 28, 2013.   

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