As I write this column, central bargaining for teachers and occasional teachers has ceased and ETFO members have begun “Phase 1” of a province-wide, work-to-rule strike action that started on May 11.
OFL Day of Action
Twenty-two ETFO locals from as far away as Ontario North East, Rainbow, Near North, Ottawa-Carleton, Avon-Maitland, Thames Valley, Bluewater, Limestone, Hastings-Prince Edward, Renfrew County, Greater Essex County, Kawartha Pine Ridge, Simcoe County, Upper Grand, and Trillium Lakelands joined GTA area locals at the April 21 “We are Ontario” Day of Action at Queen’s Park. A sea of flags and bright red signs reading “Respect Teachers, Respect Bargaining” dominated the Queen’s Park landscape as unions and not-for-profit organizations gathered to demonstrate against the McGuinty government’s austerity budget.
“We are here to protect our rights and protect collective bargaining. This government has woken up a sleeping giant across the province,” ETFO President Sam Hammond told more than 6,000 people. “The public service did not create this financial problem and we’re not going to pay for it.”
Women’s Collective Bargaining conference
On March 29 and 30, 60 women gathered for the Women’s Collective Bargaining Conference. Participants learned about effective negotiation, talked about women’s workplace issues and developed personal bargaining skills. Dr. Cheryl van Daalen-Smith led a spirited discussion about the perception of women perpetuated by the media and the importance of all voices at the bargaining table.
On May 11 and 12, 2012 ETFO sponsored the first-ever Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) symposium to help teachers establish G SAs for grades 7 and 8 students in public elementary schools. “GSA groups must be supported in all schools where students or staff request them because they help ensure the safety of all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and questioning students;’ said ETFO President Sam Hammond. ”This symposium is meant to support our teachers who are dedicated to ensuring that schools are inclusive and welcoming for all students.” The conference was all the more timely given the Ontario government’s introduction of Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act.The Act, which would help prevent gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia and transphobia, calls for school boards to support organizations such as gay-straight alliances.
On May 2-3, 2012 over 150 ETFO leaders gathered for the spring Representative Council Meeting. They were joined by 25 participants in Leaders for Tomorrow Presentations focused on the road ahead as we ready for provincial takeover and board-by-board collective bargaining. Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, spoke to the experiences of teachers in British Columbia and their recent AGM which was them ed “Teachers Build a Better World.” She offered ETFO leaders encouragement and the sup port of the BCTF. CAW economist Jim Stanford spoke to ETFO leaders on the second day of the meeting a bout the macroeconomics of recession, deficits, and austerity. Both of these speeches can be viewed on our website, eifo.ca. Stanford’s book, Economics for Everyone is a great economics resource for activists. Punchy and readable with short bite-sized chapters, cartoons, and flow charts, Economics for Everyone explains (and critiques) the free market system. The book is available for purchase at Economicsforeveryone.ca, with proceeds going to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Respect Teachers, Respect Bargaining Campaign
In May, thousands of ETFO members participated in a RespectTeachers, Respect Bargaining campaign by sending postcards to the premier, the minister of education, and their local member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). Members used the postcards to tell legislators about the impact the proposed PDT cuts will have on them personally. Members demanded that the Minister and their MPP respect free collective bargaining.
Tanya Ferro reflects on her students’ participation in Girls’ Government, a program that encourage grade 8 girls to get involved in government and public policy.