Participation in political rallies gives ETFO members an important opportunity to support their union’s bargaining position; it gives them a public voice on how contract provisions directly affect classroom working and learning conditions. ETFO members find themselves once again compelled to protest the government and employer stance at the bargaining table. The current round of education sector bargaining is the first under the new provincial bargaining legislation. It follows the tumultuous 2012 bargaining year that saw ETFO spearheading the fight against Bill 115, the legislation that unilaterally imposed provisions on ETFO collective agreements. In 2012, ETFO members responded to the anti-democratic thrust of Bill 115 by holding local and provincial rallies and ultimately engaging in a one-day walkout in December of that year. In spite of the new bargaining legislation, designed to bring a constructive framework to education sector bargaining, ETFO members are once again picking up their placards and marching to Queen’s Park, local MPP offices, or school board headquarters. ETFO approached the first round of bargaining under the new framework with optimism that an agreement could be achieved with the government and Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) in a fair and respectful way. ETFO was under no illusion that bargaining would be easy, given the austerity messages from the government. However, our negotiations team was taken aback by the extent of the strips tabled by OPSBA and by the failure of the government, also a party at the table, to step in and rein in the employer organization. The OPSBA strips amount to wiping away more than a decade of improvements to teaching and learning conditions gained through collective bargaining and through lobbying at Queen’s Park.
“I Stand with My Union”: Members Rally to Support ETFO’s Collective Bargaining Position
President Hammond welcomed Representative Council members to their first meeting at ETFO’s new building. With the completion of the 2012 round of collective bargaining earlier in October, President Hammond thanked local presidents for their unwavering leadership over the past two years.
The minority government at Queen’s Park means Ontario could face an election this school year. ETFO members may still harbour strong feelings about the Liberal government’s attack on collective bargaining rights and the failure of anyone in the legislature to vigorously defend them, but we should not overlook the bigger threat to the public sector and to unions: the agenda of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.