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.
Navigating Our Way Forward (From the President)
Navigating a path for bargaining under the new two-tiered collective bargaining legislation continues to be an unprecedented voyage requiring time, patience and commitment to our bargaining goals.
The signing of a memorandum of settlement with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the government regarding the central list for teachers and occasional teachers on December 4, 2014 allowed issues-bargaining to get underway in January 2015. A series of meetings through the winter has challenged participants not only to begin negotiating items on the central list, but also to address processes and procedures under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014 (SBCBA).
This round of central bargaining is inevitably a slow one. However, this has allowed staff to research ETFO’s positions carefully and to prepare and present solid rationales to support members’ bargaining priorities and demands. The Ministry is at the table and present to hear our detailed concerns about workload and Ministry initiatives and the desire of teachers to focus on their students and not on bureaucracy.
With this central list determined and with a non-exhaustive list of items identified as being available for local bargaining, teacher and occasional teacher locals were in a position to begin local bargaining on or after February 23, 2015. ETFO collective bargaining staff is working closely with locals to support local leaders in conducting meaningful negotiations with school boards. This is the first time in a decade that local leaders are in a position to engage in real local bargaining, due to the right to strike locally won through the amendment process of the SBCBA.
Together, we will collaborate to reach a fair collective agreement that contains both central and local items. The vote result from the online central strike vote in November 2014 – 95% in favour of taking strike action if necessary – provided ETFO with a clear mandate as we entered real negotiations at the central tables.
On January 20, 2015, ETFO met with the government, OPSBA and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) to negotiate the central table list for its DECEs, ESPs and PSPs. All central table list items were agreed upon with the exception of one: student supervision. ETFO sees this item as a central table item, while OPSBA and OCSTA see it as a local item. As a result of this dispute, ETFO has referred the question to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) for a determination on where this item resides, in central or local bargaining. Until the OLRB makes its decision, neither central bargaining nor local bargaining can commence for our DECEs, ESPs and PSPs under the confines of the legislation.
Charting a path forward is a priority on the ETFO home front too. In November 2014, the ETFO Executive began a strategic planning exercise – a core part of leading an organization of this size and complexity – to reflect on how to effectively govern ETFO. As part of this and building on earlier strategic planning reports, we are charting a strategic direction responsive to the needs of our locals and members.
Our emerging strategic plan reflects our core values as a union, including solidarity, democracy, equity and social justice. It also integrates the core priorities of our organization that we ratify each year. We are defining measurable targets and timelines for our work and examining Executive meetings and processes so as to maximize our efficiency. Over the months to come, the Executive will share this strategic plan with Representative Council and at federation meetings to explore the emerging vision, strategic focus areas and measures and targets we have been working on, in order to gather your input and perspectives.
As we examine the core work of ETFO, my hope is that this effort will enable us to enhance our focus, programs, services and collective efforts to have a greater positive impact on our members, their workplaces and the society in which we live.
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.