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.
From the President: Standing Together
One of the challenges writing for a magazine is recognizing that I have to focus on the distant horizon; I can’t necessarily address the issues that are important to me when I write.
As I write this column we are in the middle of an election campaign, a campaign that will determine the future of our province. When you read this article, you will know whether we were successful in preventing a Tim Hudak Conservative government or not.
Whatever the outcome of the election, however, your federation will continue to advance the issues that matter to you in your classrooms and in your communities.
This year we welcomed another new DECE local. Designated early childcare educators in Trillium Lakelands became ETFO’s newest members. They join eight other DECE locals. Their voices enrich our understanding of early childhood education and their enthusiasm as new union members remind us again of the benefits of unionization.
We are now preparing for bargaining under our new regime. Bill 122, the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, has been proclaimed. It creates the two-tier framework under which we will be bargaining in the coming years. Bill 122 is now law and we welcome the fact that there is some certainty about the bargaining framework; we won’t have to start from the beginning each and every time.
We win at the bargaining table when all parties focus on building respectful relationships and when we demonstrate the kind of strength and determination we have over the past two years. When we stand together, we achieve our goals and create our future together.
Our Building Better Schools initiative unfolded across the province over the spring. You have probably seen the Building Better Schools brochure and the postcard urging you to speak up for schools. When we talk about class size, resources for special needs students, specialist teachers, assessment, inclusion and equity, and the importance of unions, parents and the public listen. We anticipate that we will be using the six building blocks for better schools well into the future to speak with the public.
In May more than 50 ETFO members attended the Canadian Labour Congress Convention in Montreal. At that convention we saw democracy at work. In a very closely contested election, Hassan Yussuff was elected president of the CLC. Hassan has been a very good friend to ETFO over the years and we look forward to his leadership of our national labour movement.
ETFO has a long history of supporting members from equity-seeking groups. We released the film and resource Everyone Is Able; we increased our commitment to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit resources and staffing; we conducted focus groups among racialized members, and we held similar groups with members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
This spring we launched a new resource, LGBT Rights in Your Workplace. It’s for all members, because it takes everyone to promote an inclusive school workplace and it is part of ETFO’s strategy to challenge homophobia and transphobia in the workplace.
We have completed filming for a training video featuring the stories of LGBT members. A writers’ group will be convened to develop accompanying resources, and we will roll out this training program for local executives, stewards, and others in 2015.
The summer is coming up. This is a time for you to relax. It is also a time when I know that many of you take advantage of the professional learning ETFO offers through our Summer Academy. This summer we will be offering 100 courses in over 30 communities, including new courses in math and technology-enabled learning.
Enjoy your summer and get the rest that you so richly deserve.
More than 150 people braved cold rainy days and Toronto traffic to attend the May Representative Council meeting this year.