In August, just over 600 delegates gathered in Toronto at ETFO’s 2014 Annual Meeting to debate resolutions to guide our union and enhance the teaching profession.
Dalton Days: Time to Take a Pause (From the President)
Educators come to their profession as a calling. We do so because we believe we have something important to contribute to the children who will shape our society and build our future. Every day, we go far beyond teaching the basics of the curriculum to teaching about democracy and community, helping to create good citizens – citizens who know they are entitled to fairness and respect just as they learn to treat others the same way. Politically Motivated Crisis ETFO tried for more than six months to persuade the government to negotiate fairly with teachers and other education professionals. The government refused, deciding instead to manufacture a politically motivated crisis in education and then “solve” it by introducing regressive legislation. Bill 115 is unprecedented, and goes far beyond any wage restraint or back-to-work legislation enacted before in Ontario. There is nothing in my recent memory more hypocritical than the actions of a premier who rode into office on a commitment to educators and then turned his back on them. Our Response In response to Bill 115, legislation that strips educators of our democratic rights and puts educators, students and the education system last, we ask our members to “take a pause.” Take a pause and think long and hard about what voluntary activities you are currently doing. While we will remain focused on teaching students and ensuring their health and safety, teachers and other education professionals must carefully consider what more we can afford to do outside of our instructional responsibilities. We are also introducing McGuinty Mondays. Every Monday we are asking all ETFO members (teachers and other education professionals) to arrive at school no more than 30 minutes before classes begin, leave school no more than 30 minutes after classes end, and not participate in any school-based, system-level, or regional Ministry meetings of any kind before, during, or after the instructional day. Unprecedented Intrusion into Collective Bargaining Bill 115, which has been called an unprecedented intrusion into guaranteed collective bargaining rights by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, imposes a two-year pay freeze with a permanent cut to negotiated benefits on members of ETFO, OSSTF, and CUPE. While we take workplace actions, we will also proceed with a Charter challenge in response to the bill and file a complaint with the International Labour Organization. Collective bargaining rights are central to ensuring that working people are treated with dignity, respect, and fairness in the workplace – across sectors. The McGuinty government will be held accountable for its actions with this legislation. Power in Solidarity We have already shown our strength and our numbers, as well as the support we have in Ontario and from across the country. Our Queen’s Park rally on August 28, 2012 packed the lawns of the legislature with close to 15,000 people – teachers, parents, children, concerned citizens, and members of other unions – all of whom came out to say no to regressive, draconian, and anti- democratic government action. On September 6, NDP candidate Catherine Fife was elected in the Kitchener- Waterloo by-election. The Liberals ran third. This was in no small part due to the work of educators in that campaign, many of whom were ETFO members. The NDP win demonstrated that creating a crisis and attacking bargaining rights do not win public support. Make no mistake. We are in a fight. It is a fight for our students and our classrooms, today and in the future. It is a fight for the democratic and workplace rights not only of educators but all Ontario workers.