Article

Getting Ready for Bargaining (From the General Secretary)

Victoria Réaume

The  fall  has  been  a  busy  time at  ETFO  provincial  office. At the core of what we have been working  on,  along  with  the other  affiliates  and  CUPE,  is responding to  Bill 122, the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act. Bill 122 was introduced in the legislature on October 22, 2013 and will  establish a formalized process for two-tier – central and local – bargaining for the education sector. The Bill seeks to transform education  sector  bargaining from an informal, ad hoc process to a more transparent one that formalizes the roles and responsibilities of three key parties: the unions, the employer  associations, and  the  provincial government. When school boards lost their ability to raise revenue in 1997, the provincial government became the sole funder of public education. It therefore has an integral role to play in education sector bargaining. ETFO and the other affiliates have identified several amendments we would like to see adopted before the Bill is finalized. Over the past several months, ETFO has been working with the affiliates and CUPE to achieve these amendments. At the most recent meeting  with  Education  Minister  Liz  Sandals, ETFO and  other  education  sector unions presented our common concerns. We want to ensure that the legislation establishes a fair balance between the employee and employer sides in the bargaining process and that the party holding the purse strings, the provincial government, is at the table in a formal way governed by the same obligations and duties as the other parties. When will Bill 122 become law ? In a minority government situation, it is difficult to predict a timeline for the passage of legislation. The government has indicated that it would like a second reading vote on Bill 122, and referral to a standing committee by December 12, 2013. We expect standing committee  hearings  will begin in February 2014, with third reading in March 2014. The Bill may become law by March break, assuming it follows the usual path. ETFO  will  continue  to   advocate  for amendments to the Bill that speak to the arbitration  criteria,  the  grievance  process, the  government’s  powers  in  the  negotiations, and how central discussion tables for non-teaching staff will be established. At this point, we are hopeful the government will be receptive to our proposed amendments. Our ultimate goal is to establish an effective bargaining system moving forward. Getting ready for collective bargaining ETFO continues to work provincially and at the local level to get ready for the next round of collective bargaining. As you know, ETFO contracts expire on August 31, 2014, and bargaining will begin well before that date. In November, we held our first collective bargaining conference  of  this bargaining year. Over 300 local leaders participated in workshops on several topics including bargaining basics, maternity leave, grievances, and bargaining through an equity lens. Our CB conference heard about the “Purple Scarf ” campaign by OAITH to mark November as Women Abuse Prevention Month, the CLC Campaign “Together Fairness Works,” and how  the  interest  arbitration  system  functions in a session led by prominent arbitrator Brian Keller. For all collective bargaining news, make sure your subscribe to the Collective Bargaining e-newsletter at etfo.ca. At an organizational level, ETFO continues the work of implementing the Berkeley report on administrative structure, streamlining what  we do as an organization. We continue  to  integrate  equity  and  broader union engagement into everything that we do, working collectively  with other unions and with community organizations for social justice and social inclusion for all.

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ETFO is committed to working toward a more just and equitable society.