By Angelica Ingram
Following months of unsuccessful meetings the Trillium Lakelands District School Board has called in a mediator to assist with contract negotiations between the board and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Local District 15 and the Professional Student Services Personnel.
A media release issued by TLDSB on Jan. 14 states that if mediation is not successful the board will be requesting arbitration.
The board has asked the Ministry of Labour to appoint a mediator to assist the parties in negotiating a local agreement says the release.
“We wanted and requested the mediation as their actions are starting to interfere with our student learning and school programming and if we’re unsuccessful with the mediation we will be requesting arbitration” said Louise Clodd TLDSB board chairwoman.
President of the OSSTF local bargaining unit Colin Matthew says bringing in a mediator is not uncommon practice with labour negotiations and can help bring a fresh perspective to the process.
“The mediator is helpful because it sort of helps to remove the personalities and lets the parties focus on the issues on the table” he said.
Mediation is scheduled for Jan. 25 for the PSSP negotiations and Feb. 4-5 for the OSSTF negotiations according to the school board. The PSSP represents social workers speech language pathologists program officers etc.
Secondary school teachers have been engaging in strike action since Nov. 4 2015 withdrawing administrative services such as staff meetings said Matthew.
“We spent quite a bit of time thinking about those sanctions” he said. “It’s really tough at the teachers’ union because certainly our last hope is to have an impact on students but to say we can do anything without impacting students is probably untrue.”
If mediation is not successful the local bargaining unit will be looking at escalating strike action he said.
Negotiations have been difficult thus far said the union president pointing to the new two-tier bargaining structure which was brought in by the Liberal government.
The structure mandates that school board must have a central component to their central agreement as well as local negotiations.
“In preparation for that we identified what we thought were some key local issues” Matthew said.
Key issues include fairness compassion and equity specifically with teacher evaluations taking personal days and language in the collective agreement as it relates to occasional teachers.
TLDSB last met with OSSTF representatives on Nov. 3 2015 and PSSP representatives on Dec. 17 2015.
The last contract for OSSTF and PSSP expired on Aug. 31 2014 said Clodd.
“We have been open for negotiations since the contract ended we’ve been prepared to sit down with the unions since then. We’ve had several meetings but they’ve not been productive” she said.