Wynne wants to keep talks with teachers' union chiefs confidential

TORONTO – Ontario’s incoming premier raised the issue of extracurricular activities withheld by public school teachers during a meeting with their union leaders, but no agreement has been reached, Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday.

“That was part of the conversation for sure, and the details are confidential because we need to have further conversations,” Wynne told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“I think the main thing is that it was a positive and constructive conversation, and it will lead to another one.”

Wynne met for over an hour Tuesday night with the public elementary and secondary teachers’ unions, who had contracts imposed on them, as well as their counterparts from the Catholic and French systems who negotiated their collective agreements.

The former education minister reached out to the teachers during her leadership campaign, promising to develop a better process for the next round of negotiations, but made it clear she will not rip up the contracts imposed by the government Jan. 1.

All four teachers’ unions, along with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have gone to court to challenge Bill 115, the legislation the Liberals used to impose the wage freeze contracts on 126,000 public elementary and high school teachers.

“The meeting was productive and will lead to OSSTF engaging in future discussions,” said secondary school teachers’ union boss Ken Coran in a statement.

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond called the meeting “positive and productive” in a posting on Twitter.

“Agreed to engage in future discussions and attempt to resolve issues,” Hammond added.

The government repealed Bill 115 last week, but that didn’t stop thousands of teachers from protesting outside the Liberal leadership convention at Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday as Wynne was being elected to replace Dalton McGuinty.

The new Liberal leader said she won’t back off from securing two-year wage freezes for all public sector workers to reduce Ontario’s $11.9-billion deficit, but won’t take the same approach the minority government took with teachers.

“I don’t want to introduce legislation to impose contracts, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to find those wage constraints,” said Wynne.

The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union “signed a deal at zero-zero, and we need to look to all of the public sector employees to find those kinds of deals,” she said.

Wynne also rejected a proposal from Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak to make Ontario a right-to-work province, giving workers the right to opt out of a union and not pay dues, as “wrongheaded,” the same word used by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“I don’t think the race to the bottom is where we want to be in terms of our relationships with labour,” said Wynne.

“I think that the people of Ontario want to believe that they and their children and grandchildren are going to be able to find decent jobs with decent pay.”