Newsstand: March 18, 2016
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Newsstand: March 18, 2016

Happy post-St. Patrick's Day for all non-observers happy to have the city back, and to everyone who spent last night celebrating with green beer, a very happy St. Patrick's Day hangover to you! In the news this morning, it's a big day in labour negotiations: high school teachers are still fighting for provisions from their past contract, while firefighters look to arbitration for wage hikes; and, finally, welcome to the raccoon baby boom.

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While the provincial government reached deals with the province’s central education unions in late 2015, thanks to the new tiered system of negotiations there are still many local union chapters (240, to be exact) hammering out details with their local school boards. Among those is the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which is still fighting with the Toronto District School Board to have 10 staff members’ pay partially subsidized while they take a leave from teaching to work in the union’s office. The practice and specific number of staff have been in place for years, and OSSTF Toronto-district president Doug Jolliffe told the Globe and Mail the union is “not talking about any extra money,” but the board wants to negotiate further. The protracted nature of lower-level negotiations like these has some people worried not all 240 cases will be solved before the next round of bargaining begins in 2017.

Toronto’s firefighters have been working without a collective agreement since December 2014 and are expecting to enter interest arbitration, a form of negotiation for essential services that can’t go on strike, next month. Some argue that interest arbitration has historically awarded lavish benefits and wage hikes to workers like firefighters and police officers, though those hikes are typically based on the industry standard across the province. In 2013, Toronto’s firefighters were awarded a 14.26 per cent raise over five years to match the Toronto Police Service’s 2011 raise. With the police having negotiated a 8.5-percent raise late last year, firefighters stand to add to that 2013 agreement. Frank Ramagnano, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association, said the service is both the largest and busiest in Canada, but not the best paid.

Raccoons, squirrels, and other urban wildlife took advantage of the short, mild winter to eat and mate more, and now they are looking for places to give birth. That’s according to Bill Dowd of Skedaddle Wildlife Control, who has so far found a raccoon and her babies in a house’s cooler, and a mother squirrel with her offspring under the hood of a BMW. Dowd cautions people to pest-proof their homes as much as possible.