February Representative Council Meeting
President Brown opened the February meeting of the Representative Council by acknowledging Black History Month and asking members to take concrete action by supporting MPP Laura Mae Lindo’s private member’s bill to embed the language of equity in the Education Act. In light of Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Brown reflected on the importance of recommitting to justice for all those who have been persecuted. Speaking to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic she concluded, “we will ensure our members know that ETFO will have their back and support them through to the end of the pandemic and beyond.”
Representative Council guest speaker Chris Wilson, Director, Regional Offices Branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada shared research on environmental racism as a structural, historical and ongoing fact of life and talked about how climate change discussions often don’t address how people are differentially impacted – particularly Indigenous and racialized people. Wilson cited examples of environmental racism, showing a map of Toronto that provided a visual representation of Black communities in the city and another of hospitalization and death rates for COVID-19. He noted the visual correlation between the two maps with higher rates of hospitalization in neighborhoods where Black and racialized people are living and greater access to vaccination in wealthier neighborhoods. This finding, he said, is reproduced when you look at the correlation between toxins and communities in which Black, racialized and low income communities live. Wilson offered Robert Bullard’s definition of environmental justice as “environmental justice embraces the principle that all people and communities are entitled to equal protections of environmental and public health law and regulations.” He argued that a just transition includes greening all our workplaces, protecting workers against job loss through pro-active economic policies, green jobs skills training, breaking the cycle of economic inequality and ensuring equal access to social services including childcare.
CCPA Report Calls For Investments In Ontario’s Public Schools
In February, the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a report titled Catching Up Together: A Plan for Ontario’s Schools. The report calls for investments in public education and provides a path for the Ontario government to pay for those investments. The CCPA report echoes many of ETFO’s recommendations including smaller classes, more support for students and an end to hybrid learning. Read the report at policyalternatives.ca/catchinguptogether.
Bill 115 Charter Challenge Remedy Decision
I n September 2012, the government imposed collective agreements on Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) members and other education sector workers through legislation called the Putting Students First Act, 2012, also known as Bill 115. In response, five unions – ETFO, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and Unifor – challenged Bill 115 in Court, arguing that the legislation violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a landmark decision released on April 20, 2016, the Superior Court of Justice held that Bill 115 substantially interfered with collective bargaining contrary to Section 2(d) of the Charter. In his decision, Justice Lederer ruled that Bill 115 infringed on union members’ rights to meaningful collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also determined that the process the government engaged in was “fundamentally flawed.” At that time, Justice Lederer did not comment on a remedy for the parties; the unions and the government were required to meet to determine a remedy. If the parties were unable to reach agreement on a remedy, the matter would be referred back to Justice Lederer for a decision.
Over 18 months, ETFO met with government representatives to negotiate a fair Bill 115 remedy settlement. The settlement offers made by the government were not a fair restitution for the losses experienced by ETFO members as a result of Bill 115. In June 2017, the issue of remedy was referred back to Justice Lederer. The remedy decision was received on February 2, 2022.
On February 2, 2022, Justice Lederer issued his decision on the ETFO remedy for the Charter violations that stemmed from the government’s imposition of Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act in 2012. This is the end of a long road for ETFO members, as we have been fighting, and waiting, a long time for a fair remedy. The award of damages is $103,100,000.
“ETFO welcomes Justice Lederer’s decision, but we recognize it does not replace the loss of ETFO members’ bargaining rights, nor the sick leave, gratuities, and salary ETFO members lost when the Ontario government-imposed Bill 115,” said ETFO President Karen Brown. “We thank the court for recognizing that our members’ constitutional rights were violated by a government who unjustly forced contracts on them, froze their pay and cut sick day provisions as part of an austerity push. Justice Lederer’s decision serves as a reminder to the government that they must never interfere with collective bargaining rights.”
Justice Lederer has ordered a one-time cash payment of damages to eligible ETFO members who were employed by a school board during the 2012-2013 and/or 2013- 2014 school year(s). ETFO members who were employed by a school board between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2014, including those who are no longer employed by a school board may be eligible if they meet the criteria of the award. Please ensure your employer(s) have your current address on file.
The verification of employment data may take several months. ETFO will also engage in a notification process.
Please be patient. Local offices don’t have specific details at this time. The provincial office will be communicating more in the near future. Updates and answers to frequently asked questions about the remedy and compensation process will continue to be available through the member e-newsletters, email and etfo.ca.
Thinking of Taking a Leave?
There are many factors to consider before taking a leave of absence – maintaining longterm disability (LTD) insurance coverage is one of them.
Participation in the ETFO LTD Plan is mandatory. ETFO members who have LTD coverage must continue to pay their LTD premiums while on most leaves of absence. Contact your local ETFO office for advice prior to your leave to ensure your LTD coverage is not in jeopardy.