President Sam Hammond began his Address to 2018 ETFO Annual Meeting delegates by thanking the First Peoples of this territory and other Indigenous peoples for sharing this land and allowing ETFO to conduct the union’s meeting. President Hammond reminded delegates that “our Annual Meeting is the cornerstone of union democracy at work.” Local delegates, who are at the Annual Meeting to represent over 83,000 of their colleagues, play a central role in the decision-making process in our union.
President Hammond reviewed the many challenges that ETFO has faced since its formation twenty years ago in 1998. They include: the Mike Harris PC government’s attack on the education sector over eight years; amalgamation; the implementation of a flawed funding formula; the attempt to impose mandatory teacher recertification; the threat of legislating mandatory extracurricular activities under Bill 74; and the attack on free and fair collective bargaining through the enactment in 2012 of Bill 115. Throughout twenty years of challenges, ETFO members have remained united, inclusive and strong.
Collective bargaining is a central component to ETFO’s work as a union, stated President Hammond. ETFO’s important collective bargaining campaigns over the past decade include Campaign 200 during the 2004 round of bargaining, Close the Gap during the 2008 round of bargaining, Control Your Future during the 2012 round of bargaining and Our Union, Our Values, Our Profession during the 2014 round of bargaining. In each of these campaigns, member solidarity was key to success. Member tenacity resulted in many gains to working and learning conditions, including:
- 240 minutes of preparation time for elementary teachers;
- a cap on supervision time;
- FDK and Primary caps on class sizes;
- the elimination in 2012 of the 2% salary penalty imposed during the 2008 round of collective bargaining;
- paid professional development for Occasional Teachers; and
- professional judgement language in all ETFO Teacher and Occasional Teacher collective agreements.
President Hammond noted that ETFO and its members have never avoided dealing with difficult situations. Most recently in October 2012, ETFO launched a Charter challenge against Bill 115, which was legislation imposed in September 2012 that stripped the collective bargaining rights of education sector workers in Ontario. In April 2016, the Ontario Superior Court sided with ETFO and other applicant unions in a landmark decision that determined the imposition of Bill 115 by the previous provincial government was unconstitutional.
President Hammond stated that bargaining is only one aspect of what ETFO does. For example, ETFO fought hard for a Full Day Kindergarten staffing model that included Designated Early Childhood Educators (DECEs), and it organized and welcomed DECE colleagues into ETFO. The union has implemented successful political lobbying campaigns, like Building Better Schools, published many education position papers, developed professional development resources and provided valuable advice to members in one hundred PRS Bulletins. Through the Professional Learning/Curriculum Service Area, our union provides some of the best professional learning opportunities and materials in Canada.
President Hammond addressed how ETFO is addressing member health and safety at work through its multi-year strategy to address violence in schools. He also noted that ETFO reaches out to support children and education beyond the borders of Ontario through the ETFO Humanity Fund and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation’s initiative, Project Overseas. In addition ETFO is a union that values equity and social justice, works to eliminate poverty, and has taken a leadership position in providing resources on white privilege and LGBTQ issues.
This has been a year of firsts for ETFO, continued President Hammond. During 2018 ETFO’s Provincial Executive endorsed, for the first time, a political party in a provincial election: the NDP. During the United Nations International Decade for the People of African Descent, ETFO will also begin to implement a new organizational strategy to address anti-Black racism in 2018.
President Hammond addressed the new Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s decisions issued over the summer. The PC government abruptly cancelled curriculum writing sessions on American Sign Language, Indigenous Languages in Kindergarten, and Truth and Reconciliation. Despite a $15 billion backlog in school repairs, the PC government cut $100 million from school repairs. The PC government has also broken its promise and cut the Basic Income Pilot and slashed social assistance rates, creating uncertainty for 4,000 Ontarians and their families.
President Hammond then talked about the government’s announcement to repeal the 2015 Health and Physical Education (H&PE) Curriculum. He pointed that, despite the new Minister of Education’s spin, there is no 2014 Health & Physical Ed curriculum: the 1998 curriculum was being taught in 2014 and, this fall, the government intends to have students taught from that out-dated, 20-year-old curriculum.
At the conclusion of his Address, President Hammond announced that:
- ETFO strongly denounces the government’s decision to revoke the 2015 H&PE Curriculum;
- Teachers have fundamental responsibilities to ensure their safety, well-being and human rights of our students are respected in schools. These responsibilities are enshrined within the Education Act, in the standards of practice published by the Ontario College of Teachers and in the Ontario Human Rights Code;
- ETFO will be advising its members to continue to exercise their professional judgement when teaching any or all sections of the 2015 H&PE curriculum;
- ETFO will vigorously defend members who continue to follow the 2015 H&PE Curriculum, and will pursue options to respond appropriately to the government’s “reckless behaviour”;
- ETFO has instructed legal counsel to intervene in any proceeding before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and provide full support and assistance to Ontario citizens that file human rights complaints should the 2015 H&PE curriculum be revoked this fall.