Article

Working for a Healthy Democracy (From the President)

Sam Hammond

Free and  fair  collective bargaining is at the heart of what we do as a union. It  ensures that  ETFO has the opportunity to  represent our members’ needs at the  bargaining table, including the needs of our students and schools as identified by frontline educators. As we know from the work we have done over the past couple of years, the key to achieving our goals and maintaining our strength as a union is standing together for our rights, our communities, and  democratic principles. Strong unions are more important than ever as the union movement faces a blatant right-wing assault at both the provincial and federal level.

Earlier this  year, the  government introduced new bargaining legislation for the education sector, Bill 122. ETFO, along with other education sector unions, participated in a series of consultations prior to the introduction of the bill, advocating for a bargaining process that would be transparent, accountable, effective, and meet the needs of the education sector. Of particular importance to ETFO was to protect local bargaining rights, including the right to strike.

In its current version, Bill 122 would estab-lish a formalized process for two-tier – central and local – bargaining for teachers. The Bill preserves local bargaining units, provides for the right to strike at the local level, and sets up a system of central tables for education unions.  It  also  gives  the  trustee  organizations the formal authority to represent school boards, and requires their member boards to implement the terms negotiated centrally.

At this point in the process, we are focusing on a number of specific amendments we would like made to this Bill. We have asked the government to clarify its status as a “party” in central negotiations and to be explicit about the limitations of the government’s power. We have requested clarification of issues related to non-teaching staff central table bargaining, arbitration criteria, and the central grievance process. As we have developed our list of proposed amendments, we have kept the needs and concerns of locals at the forefront. We continue to focus on how the new bargaining structure will affect the work locals do, and will keep members informed as this process progresses. Make sure that you subscribe to the ETFO Collective Bargaining e-newsletter at etfo.ca for regular updates.

Free and fair collective bargaining not only ensures the rights of our members, but also strengthens the rights of all Ontarians today and into the future. It ensures that a democratic process for negotiating the conditions in our workplaces is maintained in the education sector and beyond.

Unions promote basic employment rights and  standards,  including  minimum  wage legislation, health and safety regulations, and laws limiting working hours. Such rights apply to all workers – unionized or not. The union movement has been on the front lines of the fight for women’s rights, for pay and employment equity, and against all forms of discrimination.

With the spectre of a spring election and the explicit anti-union position of the Hudak Conservatives, it is important, now more than ever, to work collaboratively, to put out a counter narrative to the “right to work “ legislation that has spread across the US, and to remember the important contributions unions make to our society. The Canadian Labour Congress  currently  has  a  campaign  called TogetheFairnes Works which   highlights the fact that “when workers get together and stand up for fairness, they get results.” ETFO is a full participant in that campaign, an initiative involving all our members in the months ahead. Fighting injustice together is our mis- sion, and delivering equity for all – including our students – is our defining purpose.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season.

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