When I was first appointed Minister of Education, my first priority was to rebuild relationships with our partners so we could move forward with a common purpose to improve student achievement. This means putting previous challenges behind us and working toward a bright future. This innovative legislation I am introducing here today will help the education sector move forward with a clear process and common understanding of collective bargaining in the education sector.
This proposed model for labour negotiations would establish two forums for discussion: a central table for significant province-wide issues and a local table to address purely local issues. Negotiations would take place at each level, guaranteeing that all issues, whether large or small, can be discussed in a clear, consistent and focused way.
The central negotiations would also include a clear, legally defined role for government. The previous process only included the local school boards as employers and federations or unions as employee representatives, without a prescribed role for government as the funder. There was also no legal status for the trustee associations to provide central representation for the school boards. We think that needs to change to better reflect current realities. The government does have a vested interest in the outcome of negotiations and requires a formal role at the central table.
The legislation would also provide for three-party ratification of any central agreement. This means that a central settlement will only be reached if all three parties-government, trustee associations and employee groups-agree to it. This ensures that all parties have a clear role and are accountable during the negotiation phase, while ensuring everyone plays an essential role in the final outcome.
Speaker, this made-in-Ontario approach to collective bargaining was developed through extensive consultations with our education partners. We listened to their feedback. We used their input to draft a bill that respects and reflects their interests.
With this innovative legislation, our government is making its intention clear. We need a better way to bargain collectively, so everyone is part of a clear and consistent process.
It is so important to have the provisions of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act in place before the next round of negotiations. Current contracts in the education sector expire in August 2014, meaning the collective bargaining process will need to begin in the new year. We also know that next round won't be easy, as many of the fiscal realities from the previous round of negotiations remain, and I think all our partners, many of whom are in the gallery, understand that getting a new bill won't create easy negotiations-they will simply give us clear rules. But it is critical that we have this process in place that encourages discussion, promotes innovative ideas and ensures every partner has a clear role to play.
The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act will help us put that process in place, and I look forward to the support of all the members of the House on this very important piece of legislation.
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