When I became General Secretary three years ago, I was charged with ushering in significant change.
As President Hammond says in his column, we have been through a very difficult round of bargaining over the past 14 months. ETFO leaders and staff have worked hard to secure collective agreements for all 78,000 members. Through it all ETFO members have stood together. Thank you.
You will know now what is in the central agreement for teachers, occasional teachers, and DECE/ESP/PSP members. There are modest increases in the form of a lump sum, and 1.5 percent increases to the grid or to wages if a member is not tied to the grid to be realized in 2016/17. The 97-day freeze has been removed retroactive to September 1, 2015. But as you know, the collective agreement is about much more than salaries and benefits.
We were able to negotiate a definition of professional judgment into the collective agreement making it enforceable through the grievance procedure. This is a first for our union and builds on recognition and support for teacher autonomy previously only found in Ministry policy. The definition reads:
“Professional judgment” shall be defined as judgment that is informed by professional knowledge of curriculum expectations, context, evidence of learning, methods of instruction and assessment, and the criteria and standards that indicate success in student learning. In professional practice, judgment involves a purposeful and systematic thinking process that evolves in terms of accuracy and insight with ongoing reflection and self-correction.
The definition by itself demonstrates that the parties to the agreement recognize the professionalism of our members. But the agreement goes further and applies the definition: “The parties agree that a teacher’s professional judgment is the cornerstone of assessment and evaluation.” It goes on: “Teachers shall use their professional judgment to determine which assessment and/or evaluation tool(s) from the Board list of preapproved assessment tools is applicable, for which student(s), as well as the frequency and timing of the tool.” And the results of diagnostic testing of students cannot be used in any way to evaluate a teacher.
Three years ago, ETFO launched a Charter challenge to Bill 115, arguing that the bill interfered in our bargaining rights. We also argued that Bill 115 robbed us of our sick days and gratuities. The Charter challenge has not yet been heard. There was concern that negotiating an agreement now might undermine the challenge.
It will not. We were able to negotiate an agreement with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association and the government such that it cannot be used to undermine our Charter Challenge.
The challenge will proceed with arguments starting the week of December 14. We continue to be confident that we will win the challenge and that the Supreme Court will find that Bill 115 violated our collective bargaining rights.
Sometimes it feels like all we did for the past year and a half was bargain. But, of course, that was not the case. ETFO programs and services continued. Members’ needs were met; professional development and leadership training continued.
This fall alone, staff delivered the first session of Union School. Women in Action sessions took place in a number of locals. Reflections on Practice started, and the professional resources catalogue was updated.
This work, the day-to-day work of the union, will accelerate over the coming months. …and still we rise, our annual women’s conference, will be held in February. The ETFO calendar lists dozens of other opportunities for members to hone their professional and union skills. I urge you to look at them carefully.
At our 2015 Annual Meeting delegates voted to endorse the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This decision will influence our work going forward.
You, our members, have been incredibly strong over the past 14 months as we negotiated our new agreements. I hope you will get the rest and personal time you need over the holiday season. I also hope that when you return in the new year you will again be prepared to contribute your skills, talents and strengths to the federation whether through professional development, political action, leadership, or community involvement. Together, we are the union.