Article

Looking Forward (From the General Secretary)

Victoria Réaume

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.

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