The 2019-2020 school year was one for the history books. We started the year bargaining with a Conservative government determined to make massive cuts to public education and ended with a global pandemic and our members having to adjust to emergency distance learning over the course of just a couple of weeks.
Getting Ready for Bargaining (From the General Secretary)
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.
Our commitment to equity and the environment means that we must elect a government in Ontario that takes justice and fairness seriously.