August 17 - 21 was a historic week for Ontario's public elementary school teachers and education workers. That was the week two proud organizations - the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario (FWTAO) and the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation (OPSTF) held their last annual meetings and stepped into the future as one strong organization: The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO). ETFO now represents 75,000 teachers, occasional teachers and education workers in Ontario.
Throughout the week, 800 ETFO delegates and alternates from across Ontario met to debate and establish policies and directions for the coming year. They also elected ETFO's first provincial executive and established provincial programs and budgets.
Phyllis Benedict, a teacher with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, was elected as ETFO's first President. Also elected to the 14-person provincial executive were: Susan Swackham- mer, Grand Erie, First Vice- President; Florence Keillor, Avon Maitland, Vice-President; Emily Noble, Algoma, Vice-President; Barbara Sargent, Lambton Kent, OTF Representative; Deborah Castello, Toronto; Ken Collins, Rainbow; Mike Essex, Upper Grand; Dale Ford, Niagara; Shelley Jones, Keewatin-Patricia; Dave Krook, Upper Grand; Christina Lofts, Lakehead; Elizabeth Papadopoulos, Toronto; Hilda Watkins, Greater Essex.
In her inaugural address to the meeting, Benedict said "This will be a year of unprecedented challenges in collective bargaining. It will be a year of high stakes political action and it will be the year ETFO launches an array of programs and services to establish ETFO as an effective and dynamic organization."
Benedict also promised that "ETFO will continue the long tradition of elementary teachers being key advocates for social justice. Teachers and education workers know the effects of poverty on women and children. ETFO pledges to continue to work to assist the most vulnerable in our society."
Highlights of the meeting were addresses by Dalton McGuinty, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and Howard Hampton, Leader of the Ontario NDP. Both leaders stressed the important role ETFO members will play in the next provincial election. Ethel La Valley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour, also brought greetings. "I am grateful to Mike Harris for uniting teachers, nurses and other union members and social activists against the regressive conservative agenda," she said. Other special guests were Jan Eastman, President, Canadian Teachers' Federation; Eileen Lennon, President, Ontario Teachers' Federation; and Sheena Hanley, Deputy General Secretary, Education International.
Delegates agreed that the following would be ETFO's priorities for 1998-99:
- To protect the collective bargaining rights of public elementary teachers and educational workers;
- To defend publicly-funded public education;
- To serve the needs of the membership;
- To provide for the professional development of members.
- To promote social justice in the areas of anti-poverty, non-violence and equity.
Among the many other items agreed upon by the delegates were:
- That ETFO support quality publicly funded public education, guaranteeing all children the opportunity to pursue their education to the best of their abilities.
- That ETFO work to defeat the Harris Government in the next provincial election.
- That ETFO work to elect MPPs to the provincial Legislature who support high quality publicly funded education in Ontario.
- That ETFO work to restore free and full collective bargaining rights to teachers and education workers.
- That ETFO oppose the unilateral amendment by school boards of the collective agreements of ETFO members, with the strongest possible action up to and including the withdrawal of services.
- That each active member will pay an annual fee of 1.3% of the gross annual salary;
- That for the 1998-1999 school year, there be an additional fee of $25.00 per active member for political action, including a media campaign.
A complete record of ETFO's Constitution, Bylaws and Policies, as approved by the Annual Meeting, is being prepared. This Directory will be available by the end of 1998.
The 1998-1999 Annual Meeting is scheduled for August 17-20,1999 in Toronto.
ETFO - Seven Service Areas to Serve You Better
ETFO's Provincial Office is divided into seven service areas. Here's a quick look at each area:
Collective Bargaining Services
ETFO's Collective Bargaining staff provide direct assistance to Locals to help achieve strong collective agreements by providing assistance in the areas of preparation of preliminary submissions, preparation for bargaining and conciliation and advice in negotiation strategies and impasse resolution. The department provides statistical analysis and other collective bargaining information.
Collective Bargaining Services also provides advice and assistance to Locals in formulating and processing grievances.
Communications and Political Actions Services
This service area is committed to conveying information about ETFO and its activities to members and to the public and helping Locals do the same. The work also involves coordinating the Federation's response to political issues as they arise, and helping Locals develop their own political activities and communications. Department staff are responsible for media relations, publications, maintaining ETFO's web site, and political action.
One driving principle of ETFO is the eradication of the inequities that pervade our teaching and learning environment.
The ETFO Equity Team develops, coordinates and helps carry out the organization's Equity programs. The team is composed of staff members who have responsibilities for these programs which work towards equity for all members.
While providing comprehensive women only programs in all service areas, ETFO's Equity programs focus on the intersecting issues of gender, race, heritage, disability, sexual orientation and class.
This area includes administration, personnel, members' records, accounting and fee collection. Behind the scenes, this is the department that keeps the Federation running smoothly.
Organization Services has been created to address ETFO's work in building and maintaining a strong federation of Locals across the province and a strong provincial organization of public elementary teachers and education workers. Staff of Organization Services work with Locals on matters of budget, effective organization and other operational needs; build and maintain links between the Locals and the provincial organization; coordinate the delivery of programs which will allow our members to hone and develop the leadership skills required to carry out the many functions of ETFO; promote ETFO among its members to build their identification with active participation in the organization; carry out administrative functions associated with Annual Meeting and Representative Council meetings.
Professional Development Services
This service areas provides quality, innovative, leading edge programs and services to educators. Educators have an opportunity to learn the skills and abilities necessary to deliver exemplary programs. These programs and services are designed to improve teaching and learning outcomes for students.
The publication PD WORKS was mailed to all schools early in September. PD WORKS details ETFO range of conferences, workshops and credit courses available both locally and provincially.
Professional Relations Services
PRS staff are available to provide advice and support to members who are experiencing work related difficulties not covered by the provisions of their collective agreement. Staff will advise ETFO members on their rights and responsibilities in areas such as code of ethics, difficulties with parents; allegations of assault; competence issues; contract issues; complaints to the Ontario College of Teachers; human rights issues; Long Term Disability; Workplace Safety & Insurance Board; Employment Insurance. Where appropriate, members have access to legal counsel through the provincial office. PRS staff will work closely with local presidents, who will be provided with ongoing training, information and advice in serving their members.