The 2019-2020 school year was one for the history books. We started the year bargaining with a Conservative government determined to make massive cuts to public education and ended with a global pandemic and our members having to adjust to emergency distance learning over the course of just a couple of weeks.
Looking Forward (From the General Secretary)
ETFO has done a great deal in the past couple of years to fight for our collective bargaining rights and the democratic rights of all Ontarians. I have been inspired and awed as I’ve watched ETFO members respond to unfair and undemocratic government initiatives with strength, commitment, and dedication. ETFO members have led the way in protecting their own rights and the rights of other working people, once again demonstrating the power and tenacity of educators and unionists.
I come to ETFO with 23 years experience as a union-side labour lawyer, much of that time working on behalf of ETFO members. I also come with a commitment to equity and social justice, principles that we will adhere to as we chart our way forward, moving ETFO through a process of administrative renewal and revitalization. As we move forward, we will ensure that equity is in all that we do.
I am honoured to be part of this forward-thinking organization at such an important moment. I am also thrilled to be working with Sharon O’Halloran, ETFO’s new deputy general secretary. Sharon has been a member of ETFO’s executive staff in Protective Services since the organization’s inception in 1998. I have had the privilege of working with her in a different capacity prior to September, and I know first hand of her professionalism, competence, and integrity.
As a result of the MOU we achieved in June, many locals spent the early fall wrapping up local bargaining. There are a number of issues that are still unresolved – including how Regulation 274 is being implemented – and we are continuing to work on them. We have been collecting and compiling detailed information from each local related to the implementation of the MOU and Regulation 274. This data has been very helpful in our discussions with the government and school boards. The government is setting up the jointly appointed committees established by the MOU that will examine health and safety, Regulation 274, and workload issues.
As you know, our contracts expire at the end of August 2014. Even though the Wynne government has been a more respectful and collaborative partner than the McGuinty government was at the end of the former premier’s tenure, we anticipate another tough round of bargaining. This fall we have begun the strategic planning that will prepare us for the next round.
Changes are in the works on the collective bargaining front. The Wynne government has announced plans to introduce formalized provincial bargaining to the education sector. We have been in discussions about the draft legislation and have brought forward our key concerns – including the protection of the right to strike at the provincial and local levels. As soon as we have more concrete information, we will communicate it to members.
The other consultation process that we are currently involved in is “The Next Phase of Ontario’s Education Strategy,” which has the goal of assessing our current education system. We are working to bring forward members’ long-standing concerns.
Our Charter Challenge was scheduled to be heard in October. However, we were recently informed that it will now be heard in June 2014. Although ETFO was not in favour of extending the timelines, other parties involved in the challenge felt additional time was required for cross examinations.
As this new year unfolds, we will continue our vigorous protection of the rights of our members, the health of our education system, and the broader democratic rights of all Ontarians. I am genuinely pleased to be part of this important legacy and look forward to working with you in in the future.
This government may not care about the long-term consequences of their cuts to public education, but educators are very aware that what we are fighting for today will have an impact on generations of students to come. We take this responsibility very seriously.