Feature

Experienced Players Hooked on Challenge of Negotiations

Catherine A. Cocchio

Like many other ETFO leaders, Julie Stanley brings years of experience to her position as chief negotiator for the Bluewater Teacher Local. Stanley is typical of a unique group of experienced women negotiators leading collective bargaining teams across the province. She was lured by a zest for life-long learning, a deep commitment to improved working conditions, a willingness to accept a challenge, and a belief in the value of building positive relationships.

Stanley joined the bargaining team at a time when she found herself seeking out new challenges. “That tap on the shoulder and encouragement of my local leadership in 1998−99 was one of the reasons I joined the collective bargaining team. We were charged with the task of negotiating the first agreement following amalgamation,” she recalls. “ETFO offered leadership opportunities I wasn’t getting in my school board unless I wanted to become an administrator. Being on the bargaining team was a good way to stay informed about what was going on within the federation as well as within the board.”

Stanley was confronted with a steep learning curve. She says ETFO women’s-only workshops and leadership training, networking with other chief negotiators, and mentorship from her predecessor helped her adjust to the challenges of the game. Terry Card, president of Thames Valley Occasional Teachers’ Local, also accepted the challenge of negotiating the first collective agreement of amalgamation.

"When the unions were amalgamated, I went to a meeting to see how my life was going to change. That’s when I decided this is really going to affect me, and if it’s going to be that important to me, I really wanted to have a say in what it was."

“I started off by joining the executive, learned that we were working on our first collective agreement, and participated in that process as an observer in the early stages. It takes a while to get your bearings and see the big picture. Once I realized what it was all about, I felt I had something to offer. People seemed to appreciate my input, so I stayed on,” says Card.

“The initial agreement was the most challenging one that I ever negotiated. We began in 1998, and signed in May 2000, narrowly avoiding a strike. We had made up our minds to settle for nothing less than we had in any of the former boards.”

Two years later, Card moved into her current role as president and chief negotiator, leading a team whose members were selected because of their experience, talent with numbers, understanding of contract language, and communication skills. She believes not all training is formal: “I learn from everyone. To improve, I watch the staff officer, and talk to peers.”

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