Public high school teachers in Ontario won't go on strike this fall, keeping students in class, if they agree to accept a proposed deal struck Friday between the province and their union.
The deal — the province called it a "tentative agreement" while the union called it a "proposal" — would see the two sides continue bargaining until Oct. 27, at which point they would enter binding arbitration to resolve any remaining issues.
"This proposal does establish a clear pathway forward in this round of bargaining that could potentially end in arbitration," said Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF).
"If accepted, the proposal provides that there will be no job action or lockouts during this round of bargaining."
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the process "keeps students in class and ends the threat of strikes both provincially and locally."
Bargaining unit presidents and chief negotiators with the union voted to recommend the proposal to members, the union said. An internal vote on the proposal will take place through September.
Unions planned strike votes in fall
The news comes after both the OSSTF and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario said earlier this month that it would be holding strike votes this fall.
Littlewood said the proposal would also give OSSTF members a remedy for "wages lost" under a wage restraint law known as Bill 124. That 2019 law capped salary increases for teachers and other public sector workers to one per cent a year for three years.
It was ruled unconstitutional by an Ontario court, but the government has appealed.
She said the province and union are "nowhere near" a deal.
"In the event that we're not able to do that at the table, it will go to the voluntary binding arbitration and an arbitrator will be able to step in and say, 'Yep, here's a deal that's fair to education workers and fair for the students."
Lecce said he will make the same offer to elementary teachers and the union representing teachers in the French system.
Binding arbitration not one-size-fits-all: other unions
In a joint statement Friday, the unions for elementary, Catholic and French teachers said a similar proposal is not something they can consider at this time.
"Entering into binding arbitration at this juncture would not support the students we serve in elementary and secondary schools," the statement said.
The unions say binding arbitration would "all but guarantee" key issues brought to the respective bargaining tables would not be addressed.