1) What does it mean to be an ETFO member?
Being an ETFO member means that you belong to the largest teachers’ federation in Canada. Since 1998, ETFO has been a leader in setting the standard for fair salaries and benefits, as well as improved working conditions for Ontario’s elementary public school teachers and other education professionals. ETFO is strong because of the participation of its 83,000 members in ETFO activities, including collective bargaining.
2) What types of issues can ETFO bargain collectively about?
With a couple of exceptions, there are very few restrictions around what can be negotiated through the collective bargaining process in Ontario’s education sector. The exceptions would include items that are covered by law. For example, neither ETFO nor the employer can reduce the rights ETFO members have to a safe and healthy work environment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) – however, ETFO and the employer can improve members’ health and safety rights beyond the minimum standards established by the OHSA.
ETFO members have a long history of bargaining significant improvements in both educator working conditions and student learning conditions. Their collective efforts – in schools and at the bargaining table — have contributed to making Ontario’s public education system one of the best in the world.
The right for educators to collectively bargain about a wide range of issues does not exist everywhere. In many parts of the United States, for example, the scope of what educators can bargain has been drastically eroded over the past thirty years. In many American states, educators effectively have no right to bargain collectively.
Attacks on educators’ professionalism and influence in public education (including the restriction of educators’ collective bargaining rights) have had a negative impact on working and learning conditions in schools, as well as on student achievement, in many areas of the United States.
3) What kinds of improvements has ETFO achieved for its members through collective bargaining?
Many improvements to elementary educators’ working conditions and elementary students’ learning conditions exist due to ETFO’s collective bargaining efforts over the past twenty years. Those improvements are located in your collective agreement, and they include:
- preparation time;
- limits around staff meetings outside the instructional day;
- supervision time limits;
- class size caps in Kindergarten;
- lower class size averages in the Junior and Intermediate divisions;
- limits on Kindergarten/Grade 1 split grades;
- equal pay between elementary and secondary teachers;
- sick leave;
- protection from discipline/termination without just cause;
- protection from harassment and discrimination in the workplace;
- access to personal leaves (e.g., paid/unpaid personal leave, self-funded leaves);
- professional activity days;
- assessment and evaluation days;
- language supporting teacher professional judgement;
- salary top up for members who need family medical leave or critically ill child care leave;
- salary top up for pregnancy leave;
- holding the line on Ministry and school board initiatives;
- seniority hiring to long-term occasional and permanent positions for occasional teachers;
- job security;
- paid professional learning; and
- health and safety training during the instructional day.
4) What about ETFO DECE members? What has ETFO done through collective bargaining to improve their working conditions and professional status?
ETFO’s approach has been studied as a model of collective bargaining for DECEs. In Negotiating Status: The Impact of Union Contracts on the Professional Role of RECEs in Ontario’s Full-Day Kindergarten Programs, OISE’s Romona Gananathan describes how ETFO has used the collective bargaining process to advocate vigorously for our DECE members in the areas of salary, paid training, job security, no split shifts and improvements in employment standards.
5) Are ETFO members’ pensions a collective bargaining issue?
6) Are there other unions that represent public school teachers in Ontario?
Yes. Public school teachers in Ontario are represented by four teacher unions:
- Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) represents approximately 83,000 elementary teachers and occasional teachers working in Ontario’s public school boards. ETFO is the largest teacher federation in Canada;
- Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) represents high school teachers and occasional teachers who work in Ontario public school boards;
- Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) represents elementary and secondary teachers and occasional teachers who work in Ontario’s Catholic school boards; and
- l’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), represents elementary and secondary teachers and occasional teachers who work in Ontario’s French-language school boards.
Under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, which is legislation that determines how collective bargaining operates in the education sector, only these four unions have the right, by law, to bargain collectively for teachers and occasional teachers who work in Ontario’s publicly funded public education system.
ETFO also represents about 3,000 other education professionals – Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECEs), Education Support Personnel (ESPs) and Professional Support Personnel (PSPs). These are education professionals who have chosen to become members of ETFO and who are represented by ETFO when they engage in collective bargaining.
7) What is “member solidarity”? Why is this important during collective bargaining?
Solidarity is recognized as a fundamental characteristic of unions and union members. Solidarity means to stand together in support of each other and speaking with one voice through ETFO.
During collective bargaining, solidarity among ETFO members is invaluable – the sound of over 83,000 voices speaking together has a powerful impact at the bargaining table. Strong statements of solidarity from ETFO members, particularly during bargaining, serve as proof of member cohesiveness and support for the Federation. This often speeds up the bargaining process and results in improved collective agreements for members.