Article

The Provincial Stability Commission Should Ensure Student Safety (From The President )

Emily Noble

Teacher supervision schedules have been the subject of debate and dispute this past winter. The implication has been that because the federation has negotiated caps on supervision time, students will be less safe. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All stakeholders in public education, not just ETFO members, share the responsibility for student safety. The Minister has expressed concern that no additional resources can be provided. From my perspective, school boards don’t need additional resources; they simply have to allocate existing resources in a more equitable and responsible manner.

However, we now have a mechanism that can help, and that will hopefully lead to a speedy resolution of supervision time disputes. Last spring ETFO led the way in teacher bargaining, successfully negotiating a provincial framework agreement that provided our teacher members with improved working conditions and salaries. Included was a staged reduction in supervision time. (In spite of the lethargy of boards, we continue to make equally significant gains in bargaining this year for our occasional teacher members.)

Our four-year collective agreements supported the Minister of Education in his stated goal of achieving peace and stability in the education system. However, during the provincial dialogues, the Minister listened to our concerns about the viability of long-term collective agreements and the difficulties of solving issues that would arise over the course of four years. The proposed solution was the creation of a Provincial Stability Commission (PSC) to “review potential system-wide issues arising out of a four-year collective agreement.”

I am pleased that we have now reached an agreement with the province and the OntarioPublic School Boards’ Association (OPBSA) on how it will work and what it will do.

The PSC is intended to be primarily a problem-solving body that works quickly to seek consensus to resolve labour relations issues. It will have equal representation from both ETFO and the OPBSA and a mutually agreed-upon neutral chair.

The PSC could provide support to principals who are struggling with the implementation of the revised supervision schedules. We intend to use it as the primary vehicle for resolving supervision disputes, where possible and practical. Where both sides agree, the PSC may also deal with other system-wide collective agreement issues. Problems that cannot be solved may be settled through a PSC adjudication process or sent to arbitration.

This is a major change to the way we have done business: traditionally, we have relied on the more formal grievance and arbitration process to resolve disputes. As you know, that process can take a very long time. We have not abandoned the right to use it, but we have made a commitment to work with the PSC.

Like the negotiation of the provincial framework agreement, we are taking a risk. I believe it is a risk worth taking. If all those involved make a real commitment to doing business in a manner that respects the rights of our members, the PSC will be successful. You will benefit from a faster resolution of problems that affect both your workload and work life.

ETFO is once again leading the way and helping to create peace and stability while at the same time making sure that your rights are protected and that you will reap the benefit of the improvements negotiated in your collective agreement.

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