1) Are there rules that need to be followed when ETFO bargains collectively?
Yes. In Ontario, the unions that represent educators who work in the public education system must conduct collective bargaining under rules established by provincial legislation. That legislation is called the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act
The SBCBA was enacted in 2014 and establishes a two-tier system of collective bargaining in the education sector. The two-tiers are:
- central (i.e., provincial) bargaining between education sector unions (like ETFO) and bargaining agents for school boards; and
- local bargaining between education sector unions (like ETFO) and individual school boards.
Bargaining about central terms in the collective agreement takes place at “central tables.”
Bargaining about local terms in the collective agreement takes place at “local tables.”
During central bargaining between ETFO and bargaining agents for school boards, the provincial government (sometimes called “the Crown”) sits as a participant. The provincial government does not participate in local bargaining.
2) When was the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act passed?
The SBCBA was passed by the Legislature on April 8, 2014. The Liberals and New Democratic Party (NDP) voted in favour; the Progressive Conservative (PC) party voted against. The legislation received Royal Assent on April 8, 2014. Amendments to the SBCBA were made in 2017.
To read the SBCBA, click here.
3) What is ETFO Provincial’s role in bargaining under the SBCBA?
ETFO Provincial is the bargaining agent for its members at any local or central (provincial) bargaining table.
4) What is central bargaining?
Central bargaining is bargaining that takes place at the provincial level at “central tables.” There are two central tables for ETFO members:
- The Teacher/Occasional Teacher Central Table; and
- The Education Worker Central Table.
For its teacher and occasional teacher members, ETFO Provincial conducts central bargaining with the employer bargaining agency called the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA).
For its Designated Early Childhood Educator, Educational Support Personnel, Professional Support Personnel and other education worker members, ETFO Provincial conducts central bargaining with the employer bargaining agency called the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA).
The government (also called “the Crown”) also participates in central bargaining.
5) What role does the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) play in collective bargaining?
While, ETFO, OSSTF, OECTA and AEFO are all members of OTF, OTF itself does not engage in collective bargaining.
OTF’s primary role is to act as the unified voice that advocates for the teaching profession, its member teachers and publicly funded education. OTF is also a partner, along with the Government of Ontario, in the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. OTF is charged with representing the interests of all teacher pension plan members – both active and retired.
To find out more about who does what in Ontario public education, check out this helpful video developed by OTF.
6) How does central table bargaining work?
The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act
mandates that the four teacher unions – ETFO, OSSTF, OECTA and AEFO – must bargain at four separate central tables for their teacher and occasional teacher members.
In addition, ETFO is required to bargain at a separate central table for its DECE, ESP, PSP and other education worker members. That central table is referred to as the ETFO “Education Worker” central table.
So ETFO conducts central bargaining at two different central tables:
- the Teacher/Occasional Teacher Central Table; and
- the Education Worker Central Table (for DECE, ESP and PSP members).
7) What are the names of the representatives that bargain on behalf of school boards at the central tables?
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) is the representative agency that bargains on behalf of public school boards at the ETFO Teacher/Occasional Teacher Central Table.
The Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) is the representative agency that bargains on behalf of all publicly funded school boards (i.e., public, Catholic, French-language) at the ETFO Education Worker Central Table.
8) Who are the “parties” to an ETFO central agreement?
Under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act
, the parties to all ETFO central agreements are:
- for ETFO Teacher and Occasional Teacher members: ETFO and OPSBA; and
- for DECE, ESP and PSP members: ETFO and CTA.
9) When do ETFO collective agreements expire?
All education sector collective agreements (including all ETFO collective agreements) expire on August 31, 2022.
10) If a collective agreement expires, does it mean that everything in that collective agreement has to be renegotiated into a new collective agreement?
No. One party to bargaining cannot unilaterally delete an item from a collective agreement, even if the agreement has expired. Any changes would need to be negotiated and agreed to by both parties to the collective agreement (i.e., by ETFO and the employer bargaining agent in the case of central agreement terms or, in the case of local collective agreement terms, by ETFO and the individual school board).
11) Are there any exceptions to this restriction about altering collective agreement terms?
Yes. The union can withdraw some or all of its services, and the employer can temporarily alter certain terms and conditions of the collective agreement – but only while they are in a legal strike/lock-out position as defined by the Labour Relations Act
Once the legal strike/lock-out has ended, any temporary changes made to collective agreement terms also end.
12) Does ETFO have to wait until collective agreements expire before it can start bargaining new collective agreements during the 2022 round of negotiations?
Under the SBCBA, either party to a collective agreement (i.e., the union or the agency that bargains for school boards) can give what is called “notice to bargain” up to 90 days before the expiry of the collective agreement. Giving notice to bargain requires the parties to start the bargaining process.
In addition, under the SBCBA the Minister of Education has the authority to make a regulation that would allow notice to bargain to be given up to 180 days before the expiry of a collective agreement. The Minister of Education has not enacted such a regulation for the 2022 round of central and local bargaining.
13) Who can give notice to bargain?
Notice to bargain can be given by ETFO Provincial or an employer bargaining agency (i.e., OPSBA or CTA).
14) What happens after notice to bargain is given?
ETFO Provincial, the employer bargaining agency (OPSBA or CTA) and the Crown (government) are required to meet within 15 days after notice to bargaining is given, or at another time that is mutually agreed-upon by the parties.
15) I’m not getting emails/calls/mail from ETFO. How do I find out if ETFO has my current contact information?
Check out the section called Stay in Touch
. You’ll find information in that section about how to update your contact information with ETFO.
16) Are there rules about how bargaining needs to be conducted?
The parties at central tables and local tables are supposed to negotiate in good faith and come to an agreement about what will be negotiated during central bargaining. The list of items that the parties agree to bargain at the central table is called “the central list”; the list of items that the parties agree to bargain at the local table is called “the local list”.
17) What if the parties can’t agree about what should be bargained at the central table?
If the parties can’t agree on what should be bargained centrally, the issue is referred to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). When the OLRB reviews an item to determine if it should be bargained centrally or locally, it looks at the following:
- the impact on the implementation of provincial education policy;
- the impact on expenditures for one or more school boards;
- if a matter raises common issues between the parties that are more appropriate for central or local bargaining; and
- other factors the OLRB considers relevant.
18) What is conciliation?
At any point during negotiations conducted under the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act
, a union or an employer can request third-party assistance. That request for assistance is called conciliation. The process of conciliation is defined under a different act, called the Labour Relations Act
Under the Labour Relations Act, a conciliator is appointed by the Ministry of Labour to conduct the conciliation. The parties to bargaining must confer at least once with the conciliator. The conciliator will confer with both parties and try to help them reach an agreement, but the conciliator has no authority to impose a settlement on the parties.
19) What happens if conciliation fails?
If the conciliation fails to produce a positive result, both sides can continue to bargain without the presence of a conciliator, or either side can ask the conciliator to file a “no board” report stating that they may be at impasse. A strike (provided the members have approved action through a strike vote) or lockout is legally possible the 17th day following the issuance of the “no board” report. But it is important to remember that neither a strike nor a lock-out is required at this point; the two sides can keep trying to reach a deal after a “no board” report has been filed.
It is also important to note that strike action or lock-out are rare; most collective agreements in Canada are bargained successfully without the need to resort to a strike or a lock-out.
20) What does the Labour Relations Act say about “no board” reports?
The Labour Relations Act
states that the existing terms and conditions of collective agreements remain the same until the Minister of Labour issues a “no board” report. After the “no board” report is issued, the terms and conditions of collective agreements are frozen for a sixteen-day period. Bargaining may continue during that time. On the 17th day following the “no board” report, any or all of the following could legally occur:
- the union could call for strike action provided it has taken a strike vote and more than 50% vote in favour of strike action (Note: strike action can range from work-to-rule up to a full withdrawal of services);
- the employer could lock out its employees;
- the employer could make unilateral changes to the collective agreement;
- the union and the employer could continue to bargain; or
- the union and the employer could mutually agree to send unresolved issues to binding arbitration.
21) What is a bad faith bargaining?
Ontario’s Labour Relations Act
requires unions and employers with bargaining relationships to meet with each other and bargain in good faith. Each party involved in the bargaining process must make every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement.
If one party feels the other is failing to bargain in good faith, that party may file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). The OLRB will determine what constitutes bad faith bargaining on a case-by-case basis. There are, however, some general issues that often form the basis of bad faith bargaining complaints. For example,
- refusing to meet once notice to bargain is served;
- missing procedural steps;
- refusing to attend bargaining meetings;
- refusing to provide information or data necessary to conduct bargaining;
- attending meetings but being unprepared to bargain;
- misrepresenting facts or information that are necessary in order to bargain in good faith;
- illegal bargaining proposals; or
- undermining the union by
- refusing to recognize the union as the legitimate bargaining agent;
- attempting to negotiate directly with employees instead of with the union.
22) What are some of the outcomes when bad faith bargaining is established by the Ontario Labour Relations Board?
If the OLRB finds that a party to bargaining has breached its obligations, it can order a variety of remedies, including:
- establishing bargaining dates and requiring parties to attend those dates;
- requiring parties to present a complete set of bargaining proposals within a set period of time;
- establishing specific bargaining conditions;
- requiring the parties to produce records and data relevant to bargaining;
- issuing a “cease and desist” order to prevent the parties from making unlawful or inflammatory proposals; and/or
- imposing or extending a bargaining period freeze.