McGuinty’s deal with OECTA could prompt a teacher’s strike come fall

The prospect of a fall teacher's strike in Ontario became much more real Friday after four powerful unions denounced the McGuinty government's deal with Catholic teachers.

On Thursday, Ontario reached a two-year deal with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) which will essentially freeze wages and force three unpaid days off on teachers. The Liberals touted the 17 page agreement with the 45,000-member OECTA as a "roadmap" for future deals.

But the other unions aren't too impressed.

On Friday morning, the presidents of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) held a joint media conference to say the Catholic deal is unworkable for their members, unfair to teachers and detrimental to students.

[ Related: Liberals strike 'historic' wage-freeze deal with Catholic teachers ]

Sam Hammond, president of the ETFO, the country's largest teachers' union, said the government must look elsewhere for savings.

"This deal does not put students first. It's demoralizing for educators and leaves an uncertain future for younger teachers. It removes hundreds of millions of dollars from a public education system that is internationally renowned for its success," he said according to the Toronto Star.

"Who really believes that you can take that kind of money out of education without jeopardizing the future of student success?"

He also said while the Liberals may consider it a "blueprint" for other union deals, it's actually a "roadblock to local bargaining and will cause frustration and disruption to the school system as local boards struggle to reach collective agreements."

The McGuinty government, struggling with a large deficit, has demanded concessions from all teachers' unions including a freeze on the salary grid which allows instructors to move up the pay chart as they add experience and qualifications.

According to the Toronto Sun, they're also seeking an end to a sick day plan that allows many teachers to take up to 20 days a year in sick time and carry over up to 200 unused days for a "retirement gratuity" of up to $47,000.

If they can't agree to terms, Ontario teachers could be walking the picket lines as early as this fall.

As of September 1, teacher unions could be in a legal strike position and a day of protest is already planned for the new school year by public elementary teachers.

The unions say they are all holding strike votes this summer or early fall, but Hammond said he expects schools will open on time in September.