The minority government at Queen’s Park means Ontario could face an election this school year. ETFO members may still harbour strong feelings about the Liberal government’s attack on collective bargaining rights and the failure of anyone in the legislature to vigorously defend them, but we should not overlook the bigger threat to the public sector and to unions: the agenda of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
ETFO Wins Concrete Gains (From the General Secretary)
The past year of negotiations has been challenging for ETFO members, but through solidarity and collective action ETFO has consistently shown that we are united in our commitment to democracy and the protection of our members. With the advent of a new Liberal leader and the change in tone and representation at the discussion table, ETFO spent the past several months in constructive and productive conversations. Our goal was to ensure that our members have the best possible contracts within the constrained political and economic context of discussions. One of the sticking points in our negotiations has been the 2% penalty that was imposed on ETFO members in the 2008 round of bargaining. I am happy to report that this has been resolved. ETFO members will again have parity with their teacher colleagues in Ontario.
While all of the details of negotiated benefits are available online at controlyourfuture.ca, I’d like to outline some of the contract improvements we have achieved.
Elimination of the 2% salary penalty
The provincial agreement eliminates the 2% salary penalty that was imposed on ETFO members in 2008. As of September 2014, ETFO members’ salary grids will be restored to what they would have been had the penalty not been imposed. ETFO members do the same work as other public school teachers; this agreement re-establishes fairness in compensation.
No member will receive only two-thirds salary while on the sick leave and short term disability plan. Members will have access to a 120-day Short Term Sick Leave and Dis- ability Plan at 90% of salary. The 90% can be increased to 100% salary, when top up days are used. There will be no legislated third party adjudication.
The agreement includes enhanced maternity benefits. Currently, most ETFO members taking pregnancy leave receive the equivalent of six weeks’ pay at 100% salary following the birth of a child. As of May 1, 2013, pregnancy leave benefits for all qualifying ETFO members will be increased to eight weeks at 100% of salary.
The agreement commits to a period of local collective bargaining. Agreement on local issues will be by mutual consent; in other words, no strike or lockout can take place as a result of these talks. Where an agreement in writing was reached during the fall on local issues, those items will be included in the local collective agreement as long as they don’t conflict with the provincial agreement.
Teacher Workload and Health and Safety
The agreement includes two provisions related to elementary teacher workload. The first is an elementary teacher workload study that will review educational initiatives and student assessments at both the provincial and board levels, with a focus on student achievement, elementary teacher workload, and teacher professionalism. ETFO and school boards will be consulted about the scope of the research. The second is a commitment on the part of the government to ensure that Ministry Policy and Program Memorandum 155 (use of diagnostic assessments) is implemented appropriately. Teachers must be able to exercise their professional judgment in the selection and use of diagnostic assessment tools. The proposed provincial agreement calls for a health and safety task force made up of representatives from ETFO, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, and school boards to be established in June 2013. The task force will provide advice, information, and recommendations about workplace health and safety issues by December 31, 2013.
Salary grid and job security
The agreement includes a commitment by the government that any changes to ETFO salary grids will occur either through mutual agreement or through collective bargaining for the next collective agreement. During the 2012-2014 collective agreement, the government, ETFO, and other stakeholders will meet to review various aspects of salary grids, including movement based on experience and qualifications, and the monetary value of each grid step, with a view to future sustainability. The provincial agreement includes improved job security for non-teacher members.
This is my last column in Voice as ETFO’s General Secretary. It has been an honour to serve the organization since ETFO’s formation in 1998. This is a truly progressive and forward thinking organization, one that demonstrates leadership in everything that we do. I have been proud to serve as General Secretary. I am happy to welcome the new General Secretary, Victoria Réaume. Ms Réaume was in private practice at a preeminent law firm in Toronto for the past 22 years. Central to her practice was the representation and defense of ETFO and ETFO members in many aspects of collective bargaining and professional relations services. In 2012, she was inducted as a Fellow to the Ontario Teachers’ Federation in recognition of her service to education, her commitment to social justice, and for enhancing the image of women in the field of education. I know you will welcome her to this wonderful organization.
For ETFO the October provincial election was a success story: we worked hard to ensure the election of a majority of education-friendly candidates and that goal was accomplished with the election of 53 Liberals and 17 New Democrats.