ETFO members have spent the last year standing up for the right to engage in free collective bargaining. In the process, we experienced some rude awakenings: a Liberal government that betrayed a decade-long relationship with education professionals and a growing bias against unions. The broader context of this experience helps us to both better understand the anti-union sentiment and fight against it.
Standing Strong Delivers Fairness and Equity to ETFO Members (From President)
I’d like to begin the last column of this school year by saying a big thank you to our members. This has been a very challenging year of contract discussions with the government. It has also been incredibly powerful and inspiring. Our journey took many unexpected twists and turns; the once education premier betrayed educator and other public sector unions, pushed through a cynical and unprecedented bill, abruptly prorogued the legislature, and then resigned his position. Throughout this entire process, ETFO members have been unrelenting in their commitment to protecting our rights and those of others – setting an excellent example for our students and exercising our free and democratic rights to mobilize and protest the government actions. We have organized our communities, held incredible rallies and protests across the province, and stood firm in our opposition to the government’s attack on educators. The solidarity of ETFO members has allowed us to negotiate a provincial agreement that would have otherwise been unattainable.
In late January, we started a new process of putting all of the issues that we have raised over the last year on the table and working to move forward with the new government. As a leadership team, our goal at the provincial discussion table was to address the issues of greatest concern to our members. Discussions were respectful but challenging. Nonetheless, we persisted and arrived at a provincial agreement that lessens the damage caused by the McGuinty government when it imposed Bill 115.
For the past 15 months, ETFO members have asked to be treated with fairness and respect. The agreement that we arrived at in June with the Wynne government reflects those principles.
The sticking point over the last months has been bringing our members up to parity with their teacher colleagues by returning the 2% salary penalty that was imposed on ETFO members in 2008. I am pleased to report that we have stood our ground and achieved this goal. It is time to restore fairness and equity to all Ontario teachers.
The 2012 – 2014 provincial agreement includes improvements to sick leave, maternity leave, health and safety, workload, local bargaining, salary grid movement, and job security. Work groups have been established to review teacher workload, and health and safety. ETFO will be invited to join any work group formed to explore the feasibility of a provincial benefits plan. The number of un- paid days during the 2013-2014 school year have been reduced. A joint committee has been formed to review Regulation 274. Local bargaining will take place.
For details about this agreement go to controlyourfuture.ca and make sure that you subscribe to the collective bargaining e-newsletter.
As we continue on our path, and with every initiative we undertake, the well-being of our members is central to what we do. Our greatest strengths have been our solidarity and our commitment to defending our principles and democratic rights. All our work has been rooted in defending the rights of members and advancing social justice and equity for all. I am proud of our members, our staff and our executive for standing tough in a difficult year and fighting not only for our democratic rights, but those of all Ontario workers.
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.