Former government mediator explains the Ontario teacher bargaining process

TORONTO – Contract negotiations between Ontario public school teachers and the province have been going on for months with little progress, prompting all four major unions to stage various job actions, including a provincewide one-day strike set for Feb. 21.

A government mediator has been assisting the negotiations, but the education minister is now calling for private mediation.

Reg Pearson, a former Ontario government mediator involved in public sector bargaining who now has his own mediation company, explains the mediation process and how to get parties back to the table.

What is the difference between using a government mediator and a private mediator?

Government mediators are employees of the Ministry of Labour, but they are neutral and employ similar techniques as private mediators. The government mediators currently involved in the teachers’ negotiations now are very capable. The process really is no different. The personality or the style of the mediator may very well be different and I think that the government may have experienced that in a settlement last year with education support staff. Certainly the mediator involved in talks with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association is very capable, trusted by the parties, has been involved in some major files, and knows how to push or pull the parties to a deal.

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